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Old 09-23-2006, 10:03 AM   #441
littlemanpoet
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I missed this post earlier.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Child of the 7th Age
[Tolkien's] world is corrupted with evil in a way that goes beyond the traditional Christian view. It is a bleaker, more fatalistic place than that proposed in the Bible, whether because of certain influences from his beloved pagan myth or an intentional desire to portray Arda in a strikingly different light.

Just look at the creation story. The biblical story does not have any of the fallen angels actively participating in the creation of the world. Yet this is what Tolkien does. Morgoth's music is intertwined within the very fabric of Eru's world. To me, that is a very important distinction. It makes Arda laden with evil in a way that is not true of the Judaeo/Christian world where evil was introduced by the personal choices of two individuals. In the biblical paradigm, we are fighting against the evil impulses within our own soul. In the context of middle-earth, we must not only fight our personal impulses but contend with an evil that was woven into the fabric of the physical world from before the dawn of time. This makes the "long defeat" even longer! And because of this unique aspect of creation, I sometimes get the general feeling (a la Shippey) that Tolkien has presented us with an evil in middle-earth that is a great deal more substantial than the traditional Judaeo-Christian view of evil as the simple negation of good. Pretty heavy stuff, considerably bleaker than the orthodox story of creation as itirated in the bible.
Actually, it depends upon whether you follow the primary, demythologized (and overly 'scrubbed') theological tradition, or the the more mythical, biblical-story reading.

(Herein lies another example of Greek "hardening of the categories" that has rendered Christian understanding of its own faith and history frankly moribund.)

The more mythical and biblical-story reading has to do with fallen angels mating with humans, the giants (nephilim) that resulted from such unions, and the filling of Canaan with these giant enemies of the Promise ... the sun and moon standing still for a day ... we're talking mythic power treated as history.

I italicized "simple negation of good" because it's an interesting point. First, is it an accurate reading of the biblical-mythic story? Second, even if it is (which I don't think), is it really that simple?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Child
Why is this? Why did Tolkien change this critical aspect of the creation story? He could have had Morgoth fall before the beginning of time and drop away from the group, yet still used the other Ainur to help him fashion the music. Why did he permit evil to be woven into the core of creation in a way that is very different than the biblical story? Perhaps if we knew the answer to this, it would help us understand how and why Tolkien used symbols and stories from the bible, but somehow changed them to create a world which is not exactly the same as ours.
Perhaps Tolkien instinctivley knew that the way he presented his myth was in fact closer to the reality than the antiseptic theological renderings of the Greeky-clean theological tradition of the church.

Quote:
EDIT: Littlemanpoet -- Sorry, we crossposted so my post doesn't take your excellent point on Frodo and Sam under consideration. I do think the Shire has to be considered in any attempt to weigh good and evil.
Thanks. Immediately after I had written that about Sam and Frodo, I was reminded of your interest in how the journey of Frodo and Sam affected the two, especially Frodo.

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Old 09-24-2006, 03:33 PM   #442
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Leaf

Today I happened upon a speech by Gandalf and the thought arose: how are readers to understand Gandalf's meaning here?

The passage occurs in the first interview of Denethor, Gandalf and Pippin. I'll quote first Denethor's observation and then Gandalf's.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Denethor, Minas Tirith, Return of the King
"Yet the Lord of Gondor is not to be made the tool of other men's purposes, however worthy. And to him there is no purpose higher in the world as it now stands than the good o fGondor; and the rule of Gondor, my lord, is mine and no other man's, unless the king should come again."
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gandalf, Minas Tirith, Return of the King
"Unless the king should come again?" said Gandalf. "Well, my lord Steward, it is your task to keep some kingdom still against that event, which few now look to see. In that task you shall have all the aid that you are pleased to ask for. But I will say this: the rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, thought Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?"
If Gandalf is a steward, who is his king? It strikes me that some readers may assume the answer to be Aragorn--and they would be correct--while others will interpret a different one--and they also would be correct. Their interpretation would be based upon the collocation of words in these passages, words such as king and kingdom, which have a meaning beyond simply the political one here, given Gandalf's reference to those who might survive the night. Both readings are equally possible here.

I offer this as one example of a passage in LotR which can legitimately sustain two interpretations. Is this a passage which Tolkien niggled at?
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Old 09-24-2006, 07:10 PM   #443
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Today I happened upon a speech by Gandalf and the thought arose: how are readers to understand Gandalf's meaning here?

The passage occurs in the first interview of Denethor, Gandalf and Pippin. I'll quote first Denethor's observation and then Gandalf's.

[quote snipped (see above)]

If Gandalf is a steward, who is his king? It strikes me that some readers may assume the answer to be Aragorn--and they would be correct--while others will interpret a different one--and they also would be correct. Their interpretation would be based upon the collocation of words in these passages, words such as king and kingdom, which have a meaning beyond simply the political one here, given Gandalf's reference to those who might survive the night. Both readings are equally possible here.

I offer this as one example of a passage in LotR which can legitimately sustain two interpretations. Is this a passage which Tolkien niggled at?
I expect Tolkien niggled at every passage in the entirety of the book. So yes. And both interpretations do seem to me valid, and not in the least mutually exclusive; how could they be? Nice one, Bb.
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Old 09-24-2006, 08:39 PM   #444
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Bethberry wrote:
Quote:
I offer this as one example of a passage in LotR which can legitimately sustain two interpretations. Is this a passage which Tolkien niggled at?
Indeed it is. In the first draft, the conversation with Denethor ended just before the passages you quoted.

As a matter of fact, I would say that this constitutes one of the few actual pieces of evidence in support of Tolkien's assertion that LotR was "consciously so [Christian] in the revision". The words may puzzle the reader who does not know Gandalf's true nature; in light of the further information found in the appendices and in UT, it seems clear that Gandalf is referring to a kind of stewardship over Middle-earth, in service of Manwe (the King of Arda) or perhaps even Iluvatar.
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Old 09-25-2006, 02:39 AM   #445
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There's a few interpretations you could get from this one. Gandalf could be a steward of Eru, of Manwe, or he could be a steward for Aragorn as Denethor is. you could also say he is a steward for saruman - as he has taken leadership of the Istari by 'default'.

Bearing in mind that the Sil was not published for some years after LotR, the interpretation that Gandalf was also a steward of Gondor would probably have been the main interpretation for a long time as Eru was unknown. However, there is yet another possible interpretation looking at the following:

Quote:
But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come.
So Gandalf is the Steward of the wider world, of Middle-earth itself. He first explains stewardship (for the readers' benefit or Denethor's?) and then goes on to explain what he is Steward of. Here he is Steward not of Gondor, nor of Eru, but of the good people and flora and fauna of Middle-earth which stand against Sauron.

Still not sure how much this could be read as Christian (as opposed to Eruist) though, as to get that interpretation we must first of all also accept that Eru is God. Sure he's God of Arda, but is he God? Even if he's Tolkien's interpretation of God (which is a most peculiar one - we've had this discussion many times and that seems to be the most common point agreed on), and therefore an allegorical God, then would all Christians read it that way, or would some indeed be deeply offended?
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Old 09-25-2006, 07:36 AM   #446
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Lalwende wrote:
Quote:
or he could be a steward for Aragorn as Denethor is.
This strikes me as a bit of a stretch. Gandalf has no particular association with Gondor over any other part of northeastern Middle-earth. I suppose that, in the absence of further information on Gandalf, some readers might interpret it this way, but it seems quite clear that this is not what either Gandalf or Tolkien intended.

Quote:
Still not sure how much this could be read as Christian (as opposed to Eruist) though, as to get that interpretation we must first of all also accept that Eru is God. Sure he's God of Arda, but is he God? Even if he's Tolkien's interpretation of God (which is a most peculiar one - we've had this discussion many times and that seems to be the most common point agreed on), and therefore an allegorical God, then would all Christians read it that way, or would some indeed be deeply offended?
This strikes me as splitting semantic hairs. One might as well ask whether Milton's character is "really" Satan, or whether Allah of the Koran is "really" Yahweh of the Torah.

If you ask me, the question "is Eru God?" is only a semantic one. There are other questions one could ask, of course, that are not merely semantic - Are there differences between Eru as presented in the Silmarillion and the Judeo-Christian God as presented in the Torah, or in the New Testament, or in later theology? Does LotR contain more parallels with the Bible than with other myths? And so on. These are, I think, interesting and non-trivial questions. But it seems to me that there is a tendency to conflate them with one another, and with pseudo-questions, via imprecise wording and over-generalization.

I suppose I'm beginning to ramble. Anyway, with regard to Gandalf's line about being a steward - what I'm trying to say is that the question of whether Tolkien wrote this thinking of it as a Christian element is distinct from the question of whether it necessarily comes across as a specifically Christian element. Certainly, the line itself does not convey anything specifically Christian. My claim is only that, when we consider the probable meaning of the line (i.e. steward for Eru/Manwe), the time at which the line was added (in the revision), and Tolkien's claim that the work was consciously Christian in the revision, we have at least a single piece of evidence that he was not lying or mistaken when he made that claim.
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Old 09-25-2006, 07:52 AM   #447
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
Indeed it is. In the first draft, the conversation with Denethor ended just before the passages you quoted.

As a matter of fact, I would say that this constitutes one of the few actual pieces of evidence in support of Tolkien's assertion that LotR was "consciously so [Christian] in the revision". The words may puzzle the reader who does not know Gandalf's true nature; in light of the further information found in the appendices and in UT, it seems clear that Gandalf is referring to a kind of stewardship over Middle-earth, in service of Manwe (the King of Arda) or perhaps even Iluvatar.
Interesting. I wonder, then, if Pippin's thoughts about Gandalf on the facing page (in my trusty HarperCollins paperback) were also a later addition?

Quote:
Originally Posted by chapter Minas Tirith, RotK
. . . He (Denethor) turned his dark eyes on Gandalf, and now Pippin saw a likeness between the two, and he felt the strain between them, almost as if he saw a line of smouldering fire, drawn from eye to eye, that might suddenly burst into flame.

Denethor looked indeed much more like a great wizard than Gandalf did, more kingly, beautiful, and powerful; and older. Yet by a sense other than sight Pippin perceived that Gandalf had the greater power and the deeper wisdom, and a majesty that was veiled. And he was older, far older. 'How much older?' he wondered, and then he thought how odd it was that he had never thought about it before. Treebeard had said something about wizards, but even then he had not thought of Gandalf as one of them. What was Gandalf? In what far time and place did he come into the world, and when would he leave? And then his musings broke off . . .
The title "Steward" is an interesting one. It has the general meaning of a manager, one who watches over things for an owner, but the word's full panoply of meaning is more replete than that. It is an example of a word with a specifically UK historical sense: not simply an officer of a royal household, but also a title of state. For instance, The Lord High Steward of Scotland was, according to the OED, "The first officer of the Scottish King in early times; he had control of the royal household, great administrative power, and the priviledge of leading the army into battle."

Whether Saruman fits the kingly role here is debatable and so the interpretation that Gandalf is steward for Saruman would be one of the less likely or probable ones. But as Pippin's musings suggest, readers are being prepared to see Gandalf in a different light.

Words travel in groups and the company they keep often is part of the resonance, ambiguity and reflected meaning they shine. Such reflection is the way literary text enrich language. (Also the way comedy routines work, exploiting ambiguity.) There is the immediate context and then the reflected area. There are many reflections which are collocated here. One need not necessarily see them, of course, as with any interpretation.

Certainly Aiwendil is correct in pointing us to the Appendices, where Appendix A summarises parts of The Silm and tells readers that there are "Guardians of the World." In fact, readers are told:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Appendix A
. . . and when all was ready he (Ar-Pharazôn) sounded his trumpets and set sail; and he broke the Ban of the Valar, going up with war to wrest everlasting life from the Lords of the West. But when Ar-Pharazôn set foot upon the shores of Aman the Blessed, the Valar laid down their Guardianship and called upon the One, and the world was changed. Númenor was thrown down and swallowed in the Sea, and the Undying Lands were removed for ever from the circles of the world.
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Old 09-25-2006, 08:27 AM   #448
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
Lalwende wrote:
This strikes me as a bit of a stretch. Gandalf has no particular association with Gondor over any other part of northeastern Middle-earth. I suppose that, in the absence of further information on Gandalf, some readers might interpret it this way, but it seems quite clear that this is not what either Gandalf or Tolkien intended..
That would be one of the inevitable conclusions that a reader might make before reading The Sil, in the absence of any information about Eru. Yes it does look like a stretch to us, but we are privileged as we have much material to read.

However, the relationship between Gandalf and Aragorn is a special one, and Gandalf does act on Aragorn's behalf, and very much acts as his personal adviser; note how Aragorn does defer to the wiser Gandalf and allow him to make decisions, very much what a Steward would do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
This strikes me as splitting semantic hairs. One might as well ask whether Milton's character is "really" Satan, or whether Allah of the Koran is "really" Yahweh of the Torah.
Hmm, no, as Milton's Satan is a clear literary interpretation of the Biblical Satan - this is what Milton set out to do; and readers of Paradise Lost must accept that this is in no way a depiction of the 'real' Satan but one writer's vision of him. In fact, if readers did start to think that this was the 'real' Satan they might end up deserting churches in droves as he's rather cool. As for the second example these are theological writings and so are very different to either Paradise Lost or to LotR.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
If you ask me, the question "is Eru God?" is only a semantic one.
Now that's a wormy point to make knowing the rows that have happened over the years on this very topic. Everything I've read has pointed to the fact that the question can't be answered definitively. We cannot even all agree that Eru is Tolkien's personal interpretation of God, let alone that Eru is God full stop. I'd rather this one remained buried where it was.

Had some more thoughts on this recently and the gist of them went thus: Tolkien may have wished to have a Monotheistic God in the manner of the Christian God (who we can't even define anyway as there are Unitarians as well as Trinitarians in the real world, and a Pantheistic range of Gods in Arda) in his cosmology, and he may even have referred to Eru as He (capitalised) in his letters, and drawn upon comparisons of God and Eru, even going as far as saying Eru is 'The One' (what? Neo?); but the very nature of God and how he is interpreted by each individual is far too numinous for us to be able to say with absolute certainty that Eru is God. The very most we could ever say is Eru is Tolkien's God.

Even breaking this down further, Tolkien may have hoped that his readers would perceive Eru as being in nature something like the God he knew, hence using terminology similar to Christianity to emphasise this fact. As someone who writes, if I wanted to create a cosmology where there was a Monotheistic, omnipotent God in the nature of 'our' God, then I too would employ the familiar literary devices of He and The One and Almighty.

Whose God anyway? Eru is most defintely not the God I have known even as a Christian, nor the god that I know now. Eru is a construct in a book, a writer's creation, and in his nature is something entirely different. From my Christian youth one thing I remember being taught is that there was only one book to find the real God in and that's The Bible.

Consider this - if we are going to say that Eru is God, with absolute certainty, does this not then suggest that Tolkien's work, stories about Eru and his world, is the Word of God and we might as well study that in church instead of the Bible if we so desire? I think Tolkien would have found this prospect slightly frightening himself!

There's something very clever and very deliberate behind all of this fudging in my opinion, and Tolkien put it there. He despised allegory and did not want to write one. Likewise he was squeamish about creating a world with a God which was wholly different to the God he loved as a devout man. If he had the God in there then this would be allegorical, not only that, but also potentially blasphemous. But he could have something which might remind some of us of God, and he could cleverly construct this to make it convincing; he could also construct enough around this 'Eru' figure he made up to make it look like something new. And hey, what an opportunity to explore all his own, personal feelings about God?
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Old 09-25-2006, 09:22 AM   #449
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Bethberry wrote:
Quote:
Interesting. I wonder, then, if Pippin's thoughts about Gandalf on the facing page (in my trusty HarperCollins paperback) were also a later addition?
They were present in the first draft, but the wording was different:

Quote:
Whence and what was Gandalf: when and in what far time and place [was he born >] did he come into the world and would he ever die?
You might want to invest in HoMe VIII - but I forgot HoMe is "boring" . . .

Quote:
The title "Steward" is an interesting one. It has the general meaning of a manager, one who watches over things for an owner, but the word's full panoply of meaning is more replete than that. It is an example of a word with a specifically UK historical sense: not simply an officer of a royal household, but also a title of state.
Another use of the word that may have been in Tolkien's mind is in "The House of Stuart". The Stuart monarchs of England and Scotland were descended from Robert Stewart of Scotland; his ancestors had been the Lords High Steward, but in 1371 he, like Denethor's ancestor, went from Steward to ruler - though unlike the Stewards of Gondor, he took the title 'king', and indeed he was descended from the former king Robert Bruce through his mother. Still, it seems to me that someone who still resented the Norman invasion might very well still consider James VI/I and his descendants "stewards" of a sort.

Lalwende wrote:
Quote:
As for the second example these are theological writings and so are very different to either Paradise Lost or to LotR.
I don't know - it seems to me that the Torah and the Koran are stories, "myths" if you like, and that we can't draw a clear line between myth and literature. On which side would the Kalevala fall? What about the Eddas? Beowulf? Sure, there are people who believe the Torah or the Koran to be true, while there aren't people (as far as I know) who consider LotR or the Silmarillion to be true. But surely this doesn't make them incomparable or incommensurable.

There is a character in the Torah called God. There is a character in the Koran called God. In a sense, they seem to refer to the same entity. It is sensible for Jews and Muslims to discuss God, and even perhaps argue about God; they basically mean the same thing when they say "God", even if they have different beliefs about that thing. Consider the question "Is Allah God?" from the point of view of a Jew or a Christian. The question might be understood in several different ways, and thus elicit several different answers. The Jew might understand the question to mean "Is 'Allah' the word Muslims use for God?", in which case he or she will answer "yes". Or the question might be understood as "Does Allah of the Koran present a true picture of God?" in which case the answer will presumably be "no".

I'm sorry if I seem to be belaboring the point. What I'm getting at is that a question like "Is Eru God?" is vague and could in fact mean several different things. Some of those possible meanings will bear an affirmative answer (e.g. "Is Eru the God of Arda?"), some will bear a negative (e.g. "Is the presentation of Eru identical in every way to the presentation of God in the New Testament?"), and some will be debatable ("Is Eru fundamentally very similar to the God presented in the New Testament?").

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Old 09-25-2006, 10:12 AM   #450
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
From my Christian youth one thing I remember being taught is that there was only one book to find the real God in and that's The Bible.
This suggest, dearie, that you was brung up Protestant, because in the Catholic pedagogic tradition, individual reading of The Bible was not the purview of each believer. There were other ways of learning faith and that was through the Church catechism.

There is also, for some Christians, the Book of Life.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
You might want to invest in HoMe XIII - but I forgot HoMe is "boring" . . .
At $25 a volume, paperback, and twelve volumes, that's a bit steep. I know some people who have bought first editions LotR for not too terribly much more than that.

Besides, it is much more interesting coming from you than from Christopher.
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Old 09-25-2006, 10:54 AM   #451
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There was a fantastic talk on Stewardship and its function in real history (including with regard to the Scots) at Birmingham last year, but I think Esty was not there, and I cannot remember all the detail, so your last hope on that one is to recall davem for more information...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
There is a character in the Torah called God. There is a character in the Koran called God. In a sense, they seem to refer to the same entity. It is sensible for Jews and Muslims to discuss God, and even perhaps argue about God; they basically mean the same thing when they say "God", even if they have different beliefs about that thing. Consider the question "Is Allah God?" from the point of view of a Jew or a Christian. The question might be understood in several different ways, and thus elicit several different answers. The Jew might understand the question to mean "Is 'Allah' the word Muslims use for God?", in which case he or she will answer "yes". Or the question might be understood as "Does Allah of the Koran present a true picture of God?" in which case the answer will presumably be "no".
The very thorny sticking point that fascinates me so much is this very one. And note I'm talking Real World now. That God can be God for so many different religions yet they all have to fight over him; my own belief is that there is One God, but no one religion has it 'right', even if we can personify whatever God is. That's why I call myself a Universalist. And why I also resist categorising Eru.

And is also why, ultimately, I like to stick to thinking of Eru as Eru (or Illuvatar, depending on the text...) and examining what he does from within the context of the secondary world, otherwise it all gets far too thorny.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
I'm sorry if I seem to be belaboring the point. What I'm getting at is that a question like "Is Eru God?" is vague and could in fact mean several different things. Some of those possible meanings will bear an affirmative answer (e.g. "Is Eru the God of Arda?"), some will bear a negative (e.g. "Is the presentation of Eru identical in every way to the presentation of God in the New Testament?"), and some will be debatable ("Is Eru fundamentally very similar to the God presented in the New Testament?").
This is what I'm getting at myself! If we assume that Eru = God then we can get into some real tangles of interpretation and most likely, not get anywhere.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bethberry
This suggest, dearie, that you was brung up Protestant, because in the Catholic pedagogic tradition, individual reading of The Bible was not the purview of each believer. There were other ways of learning faith and that was through the Church catechism.
I was, but with a gloomy and not entirely fully renounced Catholic grandmother who liked to make me read the Catechism. Again though, she'd have told me that God's Word was only in those texts approved by the Pope (Bible, prayer book, catechism). And believe me, I'd hear some squabbles between her and one of her sisters about this and that from the Bible (usually to do with what it said about gambling ), so they didn't leave it all up to the Priest to decide what it meant.
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Old 09-25-2006, 08:07 PM   #452
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Boring but Necessary Preliminaries (feel free to skip):
The Question: "Does this text adequately reflect that which Christians understand about reality"?
  • Pity stays Bilbo; Bilbo is the passive receptor of Pity. What is the source of this Pity?
  • Bilbo is not in control of his own will; it takes Gandalf's will overpowering Bilbo's, for the hobbit to begin to come to his senses.
  • That Gandalf is powerful and good; we have as yet no indication where his power comes
  • Bilbo calls the Ring his own: he claims possession. This is a critical point, and we shall see (or already know) how it compares to Frodo and Sam.

Exhibit #3: Bilbo Surrenders the Ring

I won't quote this section at length; it is that section in chapter one that starts with "You have still got the Ring in your pocket", and ends with "Well that's that."

1. Bilbo is at this point trying to cooperate, but he needs Gandalf to guide him through the most basic steps in regard to the Ring. Bilbo is not being difficult (at least not on purpose) anymore. Either the Ring's power is causing him to forget that he has it in his pocket, or a long habit of possession holds sway; whichever the case, Bilbo's stated choice to give up the Ring to Frodo is quickly compromised.

2. Bilbo uses what seems now to him to be the wise course, to turn over the responsibility for the Ring to Gandalf; but he refuses it, knowing full well what a danger the Ring is in his hands (even if we only guess this as of yet). He directs Bilbo to leave it on the mantelpiece for Frodo.

3. This next sequence is telling.
  • Bilbo tries to set the envelope on the mantelpiece but his hand jerks back against his will. What will is overpowering his own? Surely not Gandalf's. It is the Ring: if the Ring can get out of Hobbiton in Bilbo's possession, it will not be long before it has betrayed Bilbo into the unmercies of Sauron.
  • Rather than remain in Bilbo's hand, the packet falls to the floor. What has happened? Is this Bilbo's will trying to let go versus the Ring trying to stay in his hand, resulting in the accidental drop? Or is there another force (other than gravity) at work, causing Bilbo's clutch to loosen? If so, is it Gandalf? The actions of Gandalf as described up to this point do not indicate it. Perhaps there is another force? The text doesn't clarify it if there is. Whatever the case, it appears that chance, "if chance you call it", leads to another chance.
  • In a quick motion Gandalf picks up the packet and sets it on the mantelpiece in a gesture so decisive that his purpose in regard to it is clear: he wants nothing to do direclty with it.

4. Bilbo's complex reaction to this quick sequence deserves a study unto itself.
  • First comes a spasm of anger: something has happened that Bilbo doesn't want to have happened. What is it? That the Ring is on the mantelpiece instead of in his hand? That Gandalf has taken the situation out of his hands? Maybe both; we are not told for sure.
  • Second, Bilbo exhibits relief and laughter. So immediate! What has happened in this millisecond of time? The Ring has been taken out of his possession, and just as critically, he has been freed from possession by the Ring. Just moments before, Bilbo apparently had enough of himself still free from the Ring's domination so that he could want what was right and best, to give the Ring to Frodo. Now that it has been achieved - with much help, cajoling, and direct force of will from Gandalf - Bilbo is free. Finally free, he is able to laugh. His concluding words say it all: "that's that"; a phrase synonymous with "it is finished", but said at a hobbit level.

Conclusions: It is critical that we recognize and acknowledge that Bilbo being freed from the Ring, is, here again, a passive event. Gandalf had to free him; he couldn't do it on his own. Once freed, Bilbo is finally happy again, ready and quite relieved to leave the Ring behind. Bilbo is finally himself again.
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Old 10-01-2006, 06:51 PM   #453
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Exhibit #4: Frodo is Seen

While Gandalf is gone for the most part of the next seventeen years, Frodo is seen. Just once he is "fingering something in his pocket" when Lobelia Sackville-Baggins is about. He is not recorded as becoming invisible. We do not read that Frodo uses the Ring or is not seen where he is expected to be seen.

This implies that Frodo heeds Gandalf's advice and shows wisdom. What's more, he behaves in a very unhobbit-like manner, constantly wandering about the Shire's wilds and talking with Dwarves and Elves when he gets a chance. This makes him a bad hobbit, maybe, but not a bad person.

The point is, he remains free from the Ring. Lack of use results in lack of addiction, and therefore the Ring holds little if any sway over him. His heart is his own. He stewards the Ring and does not possess it. This is critical.

Tolkien does not specifically use the word "steward" in this part of the story, but what he does say indicates that Frodo is not behaving like a possessor of the Ring. The only alternative, short of dropping it on the side of the road, is stewardship. This word and theme will come back often in the story; it is an important element. Frodo stewards the Ring, which places him in an appropriate relationship to a thing. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Frodo's heart is not with the Ring, but with the Shire.

The Ring's power does leave him well-preserved, but that may be the effect of having it near. The important thing is that Frodo is not under the Ring's influence, and that is a very good thing, especially considering what Gandalf has to tell him soon.
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Old 10-11-2006, 05:08 PM   #454
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I would like to thank the people who contributed to this thread so intensely & helped to achieve so many views & viewers.
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Old 10-12-2006, 08:53 AM   #455
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Uh, I have more 'exhibits', but it seems the call for them has died down. Anyway....
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Old 10-12-2006, 08:57 AM   #456
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Littlemanpoet,

I've been reading and enjoying the posts. However, with a cramped schedule, I haven't had anything to add or question. But I did want you to know you have a reader.
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Old 10-12-2006, 09:28 AM   #457
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lmp, I disagree with your point that Bilbo couldn't give the ring away on his own:
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Originally Posted by Shadow of the past, FotR
[Gandalf] For he gave it up in the end of his own accord: an important point.
...
[Gandalf] You see? Already you too, Frodo, cannot easily let it go, nor will to damage it. And I could not "make" you – except by force, which would break your mind
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Old 10-13-2006, 10:04 PM   #458
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Thanks, Child.

Raynor, you make a good point since Gandalf is Tolkien's truth teller. This statement of Gandalf's about Bilbo "giving it up in the end of his own accord" is interesting, and serves as an excellent example (imho) of Tolkien's realistic combining of that ever present dilemma of human existence, the interplay between free will and providence. Both are real (again imho) and it is impossible to tease them apart from each other. Gandalf is speaking to one of the two realities at the point, and being Tolkien's truth teller, is uselessly gainsaid. However, read the narrative carefully and you will still see that Bilbo needed all the help Gandalf could provide to summon the will, or should I say, be given the strength of will, to resist the allure of the Ring.

Gandalf is also correct that he would break the mind of Bilbo or Frodo, for he is merely finite. But it is arguable that a more subtle Power may be at work here, that knows hobbits from their inner workings due to the fact of having invented them in the first place (and I mean this as a reference to Tolkien only in pun), which I choose to call providence; or perhaps it might best be called "chance, if chance you call it".
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Old 10-20-2006, 06:52 PM   #459
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Exhibit #5: Sam Believes

Toward the beginning of Shadows of the Past, Sam Gamgee's character is established by comparison to Ted Sandyman. The section we're looking at is that which begins with "Sam Gamgee was sitting in one corner near the fire.....", and ends with "He walked home under the early stars through Hobbiton and up the Hill, whistling softly and thoughtfully."

Sam is trying to have a conversation about "queer tales". Ted will have none of it. First he refuses to even listen on the grounds that they're just hearth stories and children's tales thus not worth listening to (we are put in mind of On Faerie Stories in which Tolkien criticizes this view). Sam insists that there's truth in them, such as dragon stories. But Ted will have none of that either, for he'd heard of them when younger (maybe from Bilbo?) but "there's no call to believe in them now".

Sam lets him have his point but brings up tree men - giants - that have been seen on the North Moors. Namely Hal has seen them. Ted suggests that Hal's either a liar or "seeing things that ain't there", et. al., hallucinating. Sam provides more detail: "big as an elm and walking seven yards to a stride". Ted bets it was an elm tree, and stationary. This is worth quoting:

'Then I bet it wasn't an inch. What he saw was an elm tree, as like as not.'
'But this one was walking, I tell you; and there ain't no elm tree on the North Moors.'
'Then Hal can't have seen one,' said Ted. There was some laughing and clapping: the audience seemed to think that Ted had scored a point.

By this point our sympathy is with Sam (if it wasn't before) because Ted is arguing with such bad logic (if any at all) that it's downright confounding for poor Sam. To make sure the reader doesn't miss what has just happened, Tolkien includes authorial commentary that Ted actually had scored no point at all. In fact, Ted had actually made Sam's point for him; but Ted and the hobbits are so sure that there 'ain't no such things as tree men' even if there ain't no such things as elms on the North Moors.

But it would take more intellectual ability than Sam can muster to untangle Ted's confoundment, so Sam insists on what can't be denied: queer folk crossing the Shire or being kept out of it. On this Ted makes no interruption or denial. Then Sam speaks elegaically of Elves; Ted merely laughs, saing it has nothing to do with hobbits, and asserts that no hobbits have seen Elves moving through the Shire. Not this is telling. Ted denies the existence of dragons (which the reader knows is wrong), then denies the existence of Ents (which the reader knows nothing about yet), then all but denies the passage of Elves through the Shire, implying that Elves don't exist either!

Why is Ted so adamant? How can he be so certain? Well, it's because such things are not part of the normal experience of hobbits; therefore they can't exist. This is bad logic, obviously, and begins to sound like the attitude of a philosophical naturalist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: 'if you can't perceive it with your senses, it can't be real'.

So both Sam's and Ted's characters are being laid out for the reader. Tolkien will draw our attention back to Ted toward the end of the entire story, where Ted's bankrupt attitude toward the things Sam believes results in moral bankruptcy, working with Sharkey's ruffians. Nevermind Ted's illogic; his stubborn cussedness undermines Sam's efforts to put forward his case effectively.

Sam's response to Ted's doubts on Elves is to bring in his trump cards: Bilbo and Frodo for whom Sam already has deep respect and a high opinion (and as we learn later(in A Conspiracy Unmasked) , Sam already knows about the Ring). Ted dismisses them as 'cracked and becoming cracked'. With this final dismissal of Sam's arsenal of evidence, Ted leaves noisily. Sam soon leaves too, quietly and thoughtful. The pairing makes Ted's noisy leavetaking the more glaring for its failure of thoughtfulness.

What do we make of this exchange? Sam believes in dragons, tree men, Elves, and Bilbo and Frodo, and has reason to; supporting evidence. Ted refuses to believe, contrary to the evidence, and does not even care to consider the evidence. He simply doesn't want such things to be part of his life at all, without examination.

What difference this makes will unfold as we take a look at more of the story.
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Old 10-13-2007, 08:23 AM   #460
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lmp, I disagree with your point that Bilbo couldn't give the ring away on his own:
Gandalf of Bilbo: " And he needed all my help too". This implies Bilbo could not have given up the Ring totally of his own accord. What Gandalf means is that Bilbo was not forced physically to hand the Ring over. Though quite what this point has to do with this thread is beyond me.

The thread was based on the idea that if the Bible had not been written, the LOTR may not have even existed. It is the inspiration of all that is good about it.

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Old 10-13-2007, 11:28 AM   #461
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lmp
Raynor, you make a good point since Gandalf is Tolkien's truth teller. This statement of Gandalf's about Bilbo "giving it up in the end of his own accord" is interesting, and serves as an excellent example (imho) of Tolkien's realistic combining of that ever present dilemma of human existence, the interplay between free will and providence. Both are real (again imho) and it is impossible to tease them apart from each other. Gandalf is speaking to one of the two realities at the point, and being Tolkien's truth teller, is uselessly gainsaid. However, read the narrative carefully and you will still see that Bilbo needed all the help Gandalf could provide to summon the will, or should I say, be given the strength of will, to resist the allure of the Ring.
In my opinion, Gandalf's role was more of an eye-opener than anything else. Therefore, it is conceivable that a "life situation" (I am thinking, for example, of a new and better understanding of Gollum's situation, or even of the Ringwraiths') with similar consequences on Bilbo's view of his relation to the ring, would have prompted him to take the same path. In the end, it would only be another manifestation of providence/grace, as Gandalf too is.
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Old 09-18-2008, 02:36 PM   #462
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With much trepidation I post in this ill-favoured thread of threads, yet not sure where else to post this little giblet.

In William Young's book, The Shack,, the main character, Mack, gets to meet with the triune Christian god in person. He is at first taken aback as God the Father is in the form of an African woman.

He - Mack - notes that he was expecting God to look more like "Gandalf."
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Old 09-18-2008, 04:18 PM   #463
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Great literature according to Aristotle, did not explicitly draw attention to the themes that one sought to explain. Rather, they were subtley concealed within the text so that the reader, through reason, could draw them out.
Such themes abound in LOTR. Simple examples include the character of Gandalf. He is a pure spiritual being - an Istari - who choses to become incarnate in order to combat evil. If this does not in part reflect a Christocentric theme what does. Also, in his fight with the Balrog in Moria, Gandalf dies, but returns to earth, no longer as Gandalf the Grey, but rather Gandalf the White. His powers are increased and all are awed in the revelation of his glory in Fangorn forest. Can one not envision the parallel to the glorified Christ after the Resurrection.

Then there is the Lembas - the Elf bread - which sustains the members of the Fellowship through their journeys. What more specific example of the Catholic view of the Eucharist does one need.
One final example is the date chosen for the destruction of the Ring - March 25th. In the Catholic liturgical calendar, this is the date of the feast of the Incarnation - the date when Christ became incarnate in the womb of Mary and the saga of the Redemption of Man began. What other event can one identify more closely with the Christian understanding of the destruction of evil than this.

But the overall key to Tolkein's LOTR is not that it is a specifically Christian work, but rather a work of myth that is infused with a Christian spirit. Let me explain another way. We each have are everyday activities. We go to work, take care of our families and tend to social duties. These are rather mundane secualar activities for the most part and seem far removed from God and Church. But that is the drama of the Christian life - to take the ordinary, and transform it into a work done for God. Much as Christ lived an ordinary life as son and carpenter, transforming this life into the extraordinary, so Tolkein harkens us to this image. The image that all human activities, from the drama of Helm's Deep, to the simple daily lives of hobbits, can be transformed into something truly dramatic in Christ. This is the meaning of a Sanctifying Myth and also the meaning of our lives as Christians (Catholics and Protestants)- to sanctify the ordinary.
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Old 09-18-2008, 05:15 PM   #464
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alatar View Post
With much trepidation I post in this ill-favoured thread of threads, yet not sure where else to post this little giblet.

In William Young's book, The Shack,, the main character, Mack, gets to meet with the triune Christian god in person. He is at first taken aback as God the Father is in the form of an African woman.

He - Mack - notes that he was expecting God to look more like "Gandalf."
It's odd that he should choose a woman to represent God the Father, since God is essentially masculine in relation to His Bride the Church.

Mack had evidently seen all the right Renaissance art. The idea of long gray hair and beard denoting wisdom might come down to us from Greco-Roman images of classical philosophers, which the Renaissance artists used as sources. Of course, there are also plenty of references in the Old Testament to gray hair as a symbol of wisdom. Tolkien may have drawn on either of these traditions as he created Gandalf, the ultimate wizard - literally, the ultimate "wise man." I expect, if it's either, that it's the former.

Or, gray=wise could just be a universal archetype.
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Old 09-18-2008, 05:19 PM   #465
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I expect Tolkien niggled at every passage in the entirety of the book.
He did. Tolkien said that all of its 600,000 words were carefully, carefully chosen.
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Old 09-19-2008, 03:38 AM   #466
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With much trepidation I post in this ill-favoured thread of threads, yet not sure where else to post this little giblet.

In William Young's book, The Shack,, the main character, Mack, gets to meet with the triune Christian god in person. He is at first taken aback as God the Father is in the form of an African woman.

He - Mack - notes that he was expecting God to look more like "Gandalf."
Actually that's another to add to the growing list of incidences where Tolkien's characters have become almost archetypal. Barely a week goes by these days when I don't hear some journalist refer to a politician as being 'like Gollum' or some old geezer being 'like Gandalf'.

It doesn't surprise me when characters in books (or indeed real people) say their image of God is like Gandalf - he's a kindly, wise old man, which is what people would quite like God to be (even though an African woman is as good as any guess); and the image of Gandalf is pervasive now - indeed I think Tolkien chose a Jungian archetype in the first place because you could make a right long list of 'folk who remind you of Gandalf'.

I wonder if their image was of Ian McKellen as Gandalf though? I always knew Lancastrians were the chosen ones
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Old 09-19-2008, 08:42 AM   #467
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It doesn't surprise me when characters in books (or indeed real people) say their image of God is like Gandalf - he's a kindly, wise old man, which is what people would quite like God to be (even though an African woman is as good as any guess); and the image of Gandalf is pervasive now - indeed I think Tolkien chose a Jungian archetype in the first place because you could make a right long list of 'folk who remind you of Gandalf'.
The reason that the author portrays God the Father as a woman is to intentionally shock the main character out of his preconceived notions regarding the Christian god.

Quote:
I wonder if their image was of Ian McKellen as Gandalf though? I always knew Lancastrians were the chosen ones
What I am wondering is, is the author a Tolkien fan, or did he see the movies and figure that everyone now would get the reference, or did he, expecting his readers to be mostly Christians (or have familiarity with that religion) to know that Tolkien was somehow related to Christianity?

I'm always hearing that "that Tolkien guy had something to do with that Christian apologist C.S. Lewis."
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Old 09-19-2008, 01:29 PM   #468
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The reason that the author portrays God the Father as a woman is to intentionally shock the main character out of his preconceived notions regarding the Christian god.


What I am wondering is, is the author a Tolkien fan, or did he see the movies and figure that everyone now would get the reference, or did he, expecting his readers to be mostly Christians (or have familiarity with that religion) to know that Tolkien was somehow related to Christianity?

I'm always hearing that "that Tolkien guy had something to do with that Christian apologist C.S. Lewis."
Perhaps in a diabolical fashion the author was referring to Ian McKellan portraying Gandalf as the Christian God due to Sir Ian's sexual persuasion -- a double entendre if ever there was one.
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