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Old 08-31-2006, 09:48 AM   #121
The Saucepan Man
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Originally Posted by TORE
Truth: Truth is the matching relation between a truth bearer (me saying that the world is round) and a truth maker [reality] (the world being round). The matching of those two is 'Truth.'
Fine, as long as the reality can be established as a truth. More often than not, however, the word is used in a context whereby the supposed reality cannot be proven, but is a matter of faith.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TORE
But the actual meaning of a text is not dependant on a reader's interpretation, it depends on the author's intentions.
Hmm. Countless pages of canonicity thread would suggest that it is not quite so clear-cut as you portray it. Am I fundamentally obliged to accept the author's intended meaning of the book as its true meaning? What if it does not strike a chord with me? What if society has significantly changed since the book was written and the author's intended meaning is no longer relevant to me? Why do I have to accept it as the meaning of the book if I perceive an entirely different meaning? What if we cannot sufficiently determine the author's intended meaning? What if the author changed his mind as to its meaning (as Tolkien frequently did)?

I can accept that the author may have intended his work to mean some specific thing. It does not follow that the work will have the same meaning to me, or indeed to others.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TORE
But the books are not Christian works because Tolkien didn't intend them to be.
Tolkien stated that he intended the book to be a fundamentally religious and Catholic work - consciously so in the revision. That was the meaning (or part of it) that he intended to convey. It does not follow that I have to view it as a fundamentally religious or Catholic work.
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Old 08-31-2006, 10:23 AM   #122
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Their final form is not a Christian form.
It seems to me that you overrate form (which brings one to allegory) and underrate message and intent of the author; please correct me if I am wrong.
Quote:
Arguing that LotR is a 'Christian' story, or one with Christian elements is rather like arguing that the book you hold in your hands is a tree because it was made from wood pulp.
If, despite all arguments put forth, you deny even the existence of Christian elements, I guess we will have to agree to disagree.
Quote:
... but it cannot be ring-fenced as a Christian book, as it simply was not written with that purpose in mind.
I believe that Letter #142 which we both quoted points oppositely. It is exactly the purpose of the author that it is beyond doubt; the only thing left to discuss is the form in which he presented Christians idea.
Quote:
Note that Anor is The Sun. Someone wielding the flames of the Sun? The power of Light given by the Sun? Using it to chase away Darkness? That is an incredibly powerful Pagan image.
More important than the refference to Anor (the word derives from fire) is the refference to the secret fire, the imperishable flame of Eru. Moreoever, let's track the meaning of Anor:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Myths Transformed, HoME X
Therefore Iluvatar, at the entering in of the Valar into Ea, added a theme to the Great Song which was not in it at the first Singing, and he called one of the Ainur to him. Now this was that Spirit which afterwards became Varda (and taking female form became the spouse of Manwe). To Varda Iluvatar said: 'I will give unto thee a parting gift. Thou shalt take into Ea a light that is holy, coming new from Me, unsullied by the thought and lust of Melkor, and with thee it shall enter into Ea, and be in Ea, but not of Ea.' Wherefore Varda is the most holy and revered of all the Valar, and those that name the light of Varda name the love of Ea that Eru has, and they are afraid, less only to name the One.
...
Now the Sun was designed to be the heart of Arda, and the Valar purposed that it should give light to all that Realm, unceasingly and without wearying or diminution, and that from its light the world should receive health and life and growth. Therefore Varda set there the most ardent and beautiful of all those spirits that had entered with her into Ea, and she was named Ar(i), and Varda gave to her keeping a portion of the gift of Iluvatar so that the Sun should endure and be blessed and give blessing.
...
But Arie rejected Melkor and rebuked him, saying: 'Speak not of right, which thou hast long forgotten. Neither for thee nor by thee alone was Ea made; and thou shalt not be King of Arda. Beware therefore; for there is in the heart of As a light in which thou hast no part, and a fire which will not serve thee.
So, the power of Anor is in fact the power of the imperishable flame.

Interestingly enough, Clyde S. Kilby notes in his book "Tolkien as Christian Writer" that:
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Quote:
Professor Tolkien talked to me at some length about the use of the word "holy" in The Silmarillion. Very specifically he told me that the "Secret Fire sent to burn at the heart of the world" in the beginning was the Holy Spirit
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Quote:
Raynor, please elaborate. This is what the thread was about - in the first place.
We have gods who are incarnate, serving the good and keeping a guard on the Children; Beren descending into hell and bringing out the light of the silmaril back into the world would parallel, to me, Christ's days in the desert and the light he later brings, or the "fire" with which he baptises; Turin, though he did have his shortcomings (though some of them don't constitute sins, since they were done under the dragon's spell), is mentioned in one of the versions of the second prophecy of Mandos in HoME IV as the one who will defeat Melkor, again, a Christian, even Christ-like, element to me - which is even more evident, for example, in the Atrabeth, where Finrod states that Eru himself will come inside his Creation and will heal it of evil.
Quote:
I always understood the Imperishable Flame as the source of the indepentent life, contrary to the lives of animals, the source of the fëar of elves, men and dwarves, making their fëar imperishable in Arda. Gandalf refers to it when he calls himself a servant of the secret fire and I see it as a symbol for Eru in this place, whom he serves via serving the Valar.
I don't think it should be understood in a restrictive way; it is stated in the Silmarillion, Ainulindale, that "then the themes of Iluvatar shall be played aright, and take Being in the moment of their utterance, for all shall then understand fully his intent in their part, and each shall know the comprehension of each, and Iluvatar shall give to their thoughts the secret fire, being well pleased"; also: in Note 11, Atrabeth Finrod ah Andreth the secret flame is said to be "the Creative activity of Eru (in some sense distinct from or within Him), by which things could be given a 'real' and independent (though derivative and created) existence". These refferences mean to me that the imperishable flame brings into existence not just souls but "things" too.
Quote:
I think we can see the Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad Dum, Boromir blowing his horn & Odin in his 'sun-god' aspect here (wearing a golden helmet & shining corslet...
A good example of using applicability, though too lightly if you ask me.
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Old 08-31-2006, 10:33 AM   #123
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LOTR is a novel .

Obviously any book written will be influenced by previous books that the author has read, together with his/her life experiences .

So in the same way as LOTR was doubtless written against the background of Tolkien's own life and beliefs , it is surely true that other works of fiction, including the Bible, were written within the framework of their time and the predilictions of their authors .
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Old 08-31-2006, 11:55 AM   #124
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raynor
A good example of using applicability, though too lightly if you ask me.
This is where I would argue you are completely wrong & factually wrong too. One of Tolkien's intentions for the Legendarium, in fact a principle one, was to try & recreate the ancient myths & Legends of North-Western Europe (See Shippey). Tolkien (rightly or wrongly) believed that there had once been a coherent body of myth which had once existed but that over the millenia it was forgotten or lost for various reasons leaving only fragments. His intention was to attempt to recreate that lost mythology by constructing a body of myths into which those fragments could be fitted. Shippey's essay on Light & Dark Elves in Tolkien Studies vol one is an examination of how he approached the problem of the existence of 'Light' & 'Dark' Elves (the exact nature of which, along with their story & oorigin, has been lost). Tolkien's account of the High Elves who saw the Light of the Trees & the Grey & Dark Elves who remained in M-e is the account he produced to explain how there could be two (or more) different types of Elves.

Hence, we are not dealing here with 'applicability' at all, but a deliberate use by Tolkien of ancient myths, as he attempted to get at the 'real' story behind the legend.

Tolkien's claims of orthodoxy for LotR are often his attempts to prove a point, confirm his Catholic credentials if you like - often in response to readers who questioned that. One cannot use the letters (written after the event in most cases) to prove his 'good' intentions. He also stated on numerous occasions that he was not inventing anything at all, but rather attempting to discover 'what really happened'. He stated that the events at the Sammath Naur were dictated by the logic of the story at that point.

Tolkien's statement that the Secret Fire 'is' the Holy Spirit is not something that should simply be accepted without question. Tolkien also referred to men using chainsaws on trees, & in one case a young man riding a motorbike, as 'Orcs'. The Secret Fire is a very clever literary device, but I can't see any exact match between it & the Holy Ghost of Christian theology. Similarities perhaps - but that's the point. Many elements, from Christianity, Paganism, botany, biology & many other things were taken up into the secondary world but once there they took on new & unique forms & were no longer the same thing.

Anyone who has read HoM-e will find it difficult to accept Tolkien's statement that the story was 'consciously Christian in the revision' because the revisions are all there to see & they all follow logically from the dynamic of the story, none from a desire to 'Christianise' the thing. That said, I have no doubt that Tolkien believed what he said.

Finally to the Athrabeth. I have to say that the whole thing about Eru entering into Arda to heal it felt completely false to me - mainly because I agree with Tolkien's opinion on the Arthurian legends - that the prominence of Christian elements is an essential weakness. Its a flaw in one of Tolkien's greatest works & is as out of place as the whole 'Dome of Varda' fiasco.
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Old 08-31-2006, 01:03 PM   #125
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raynor
I believe that Letter #142 which we both quoted points oppositely. It is exactly the purpose of the author that it is beyond doubt; the only thing left to discuss is the form in which he presented Christians idea.
Let's look at the whole passage rather than the juicy first sentence.

Quote:
The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism. However that is very clumsily put and sounds more self-important than I feel. For as a matter of fact, I have consciously planned very little;
And let's also bear in mind that this letter was written to a Catholic priest, who also seems to have been the first person to suggest this later Galadriel/Mary connection, even before Tolkien began to tinker with her character. So now we have context.

Let's note that Tolkien makes his grand statement, and then later revokes that grand statement, saying he planned very little. And from looking at HoME, as we are privileged to have the drafting process in front of us, he did indeed plan very little, but redrafted much. And as davem points out there just isn't the evidence to prove that he went through and Catholicised the text. As Tolkien himself says, the religious element is absorbed into the story and symbolism, and as Tolkien also said, the story is not an allegory. Therefore some balance point in interpretation must be found, and it lies in that charcaters and situations are not meant to represent Biblical characters and situations but that the story, the narrative itself, is in sympathy with Christian ideals. Which it is. Isn't the Bible filled with tales of good vs evil? Of the insignificant winning over the worldly and powerful?

So to sum up from Tolkien's usually misquoted words (like the 'Mythology for England' misquote), it's there if you want to find it, but only scant references may have been put there on purpose.
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Old 08-31-2006, 01:06 PM   #126
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Isn't the Bible filled with tales of good vs evil? Of the insignificant winning over the worldly and powerful?
It is. And so, as Ronald Hutton pointed out in a talk at Tolkien 2005, are fairy stories.

And as far as this 'consciously so in the revison' thing goes, could some of those quoting it as evidence of the essentially Christian nature of the work cite examples from HoM-e?

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Old 08-31-2006, 03:39 PM   #127
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Isn't the Bible filled with tales of good vs evil? Of the insignificant winning over the worldly and powerful?

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
It is. And so, as Ronald Hutton pointed out in a talk at Tolkien 2005, are fairy stories.

And as far as this 'consciously so in the revison' thing goes, could some of those quoting it as evidence of the essentially Christian nature of the work cite examples from HoM-e?

This seems as likely a spot as any to suggest something that I've been mulling over as this thread accumulates.

We have this dichotomy between ancient myths and Legendarium, or paganism and Christianity/Catholicism. And we seem to have groups of readers who respond, on a continuum, but roughly into two sides (although Downers such as Sauce, Fordim and myself probably constitute a 'third' side. )

I wonder if we don't need to consider how possibly these aspects could be linked. We have Fairie, we have mythology, we have religion. Were these all as separate for Tolkien as they are for us?

Some time ago--I think it was on the Canonicity thread--I made an observation about Tolkien's OFS. I suggested that Tolkien believed in Chrisitianity because it provided the finest and fullest (for him) experience of that which he found in Fairie. I was expected to be stoned by certain quarters but mainly my point went ignored. I don't think he legitimised Fairie by reference to his faith; he legitimised his faith through fairie. This, at least, is how I read his comments on eucatastrophe.

Recently, a new essay by Tolkien on Smith of Wootton Major has been published. In it, Tolkien apparently defines Fairie as love--the greatest of that trinity, faith, hope and charity. At least, this is what Estelyn Telcontar has relayed to me about the essay. And davem has quoted a passage from it which makes the same comparison (on 'Spun Candy'?). I have not read the essay in its entirely, so I can only make wondering suggestions about what he might mean by this 'love.' (And how love relates to eucatastrophe is another matter.)

What this might suggest is that at some point Tolkien came to understand a common element in his great loves, the pagan mythologies and his faith. After all, his faith commonly said there were great truths in early pagan religions and beliefs and cultural symbols. This is why the Church was able to incorporate pagan symbols into its rich tableau of images--and the Catholic tradition is a very visual tradition, unlike the more austere Protestant forms of faith. (Yes, I realise this argument can be quite successfully deconstructed, but that is aside from my point for the moment.) (And I realise this is my interpretation of one difference between Catholic and Protestant. Literalism provides less opportunity to develop an aesthetic of symbols.)

I'm not in the camp of authorial intention, but it does strike me that there could be a possibility that Tolkien saw a continuum in these topics, saw something inchoate in the early mythologies that he saw working out in his stories. Perhaps something in the act of writing helped him develop this idea, an idea he may not have started out with. This does not explain the absence, for instance, of an Incarnation or a holy Trinity, or a Christ figure fully detailed, but it could account for how elements of the story are so suggestive for certain readers.

A second way of understanding this dichotomy among readers is to think of another author, Graham Greene. I recall some interesting discussions years ago about his Brighton Rock about where or how does Greene incorporate a religious element. Readers who were Catholic saw it replete with the images, colours and symbols of their faith. Those who were not of course did not. This issue then is, for whom does an author write? Like a gnostic, does an author envision a secret second language for those specially knowledgeable? Or does he simply tell a story using the words and images which form in his imagination and allow those who read to take what meaning they wish, believing that those who seek will find?

But aside from this idea of who Tolkien might have imagined his readers to be, I think there is fruitful discussion to be had concerning what exactly he conceived Fairie to be, mythology to be, and faith to be.
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Old 08-31-2006, 04:48 PM   #128
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
And as far as this 'consciously so in the revison' thing goes, could some of those quoting it as evidence of the essentially Christian nature of the work cite examples from HoM-e?
I cite it only as evidence that, at some stage, Tolkien intended (or at least believed that he intended) his work to be a fundamentally religious and Catholic one. The remainder of the quote, as fully given by Lal, merely addresses the manner in which he addressed (or believed that he addressed) that. In saying that little was planned, I believe that he is reiterating the point that the process was unconscious at first. But the reference to it being conscious in the revision indicates that he understood it to have been intentional.

Of course, my point is that, although Tolkien might have intended his work to be a fundamentally religious one, it does not follow that the reader must react to it as such.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
I suggested that Tolkien believed in Chrisitianity because it provided the finest and fullest (for him) experience of that which he found in Fairie.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Recently, a new essay by Tolkien on Smith of Wootton Major has been published. In it, Tolkien apparently defines Fairie as love--the greatest of that trinity, faith, hope and charity.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
I'm not in the camp of authorial intention, but it does strike me that there could be a possibility that Tolkien saw a continuum in these topics, saw something inchoate in the early mythologies that he saw working out in his stories.
Interesting points. But, despite Tolkien's reference to Faerie as the "perilous realm", Tolkien's Faerie (the Faerie of Smith of Wootton Major, for example) appears to me to be a rather different place to the Faerie of the original (pre-disney ) Faerie-Tales. The latter, it seems to me, is more accurately portrayed in the novel, Mr Norrell and Jonathan Strange - a truly perilous realm. Did Tolkien compromise the original concept of Faerie in order to bring it in line with his faith? If so, might it be said that, as far as Tolkien was concerned, the Christian themes within the book trumped its mythological roots?
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Old 08-31-2006, 04:55 PM   #129
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This is where I would argue you are completely wrong & factually wrong too
I don't see how the fact that Tolkien intended "once upon a time" to make such a body of connected legends to dedicate it to England refutes the religious aspect of his writing. Moreoever, I believe he called this initial endeavour as absurd.
Quote:
One cannot use the letters (written after the event in most cases) to prove his 'good' intentions.
I see this rather often; do you accuse him of hipocrisy?
Quote:
Tolkien's statement that the Secret Fire 'is' the Holy Spirit is not something that should simply be accepted without question.
Why? Does contradict any part of the story?
Quote:
Tolkien also referred to men using chainsaws on trees, & in one case a young man riding a motorbike, as 'Orcs'
I don't see why he can't use terms of his mythology to reffer to real life situations, esspecially if his terms are widely known and understood.
Quote:
Many elements, from Christianity, Paganism, botany, biology & many other things were taken up into the secondary world but once there they took on new & unique forms & were no longer the same thing.
Not in form, but that is something we agreed from the begining: Tolkien is not writing allegorically.
Quote:
I have to say that the whole thing about Eru entering into Arda to heal it felt completely false to me
I really fail to see what other power could remove Melkor's marring.
Quote:
So now we have context.
First, do you accuse him of being a hypocrite? Second, does anything in your second quote of that paragraph somehow refutes the religious essence of his work? Because I fail to see; I agree with you that Christianity is present in an un-allegorical fashion (though in a much stronger manner than you seem to imply - that being our difference), I present some more quotes to that extent:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Letter #131
For reasons which I will not elaborate, that seems to me fatal. Myth and fairy-story must, as all art, reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error), but not explicit, not in the known form of the primary 'real' world. (I am speaking, of course, of our present situation, not of ancient pagan, pre-Christian days. And I will not repeat what I tried to say in my essay, which you read.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by On Fairy-stories
The stories of Beatrix Potter lie near the borders of Faerie, but outside it, I think, for the most part. Their nearness is due largely to their strong moral element: by which I mean their inherent morality, not any allegorical significatio
According to Tolkien, one can write a fairy story which is moral (or religious/christian/catholic) in essence without being moralistic (or allegorical). I believe that interpreting his work in such a way is accurate and does give him due credit.
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Old 08-31-2006, 06:27 PM   #130
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Therefore some balance point in interpretation must be found, and it lies in that charcaters and situations are not meant to represent Biblical characters and situations but that the story, the narrative itself, is in sympathy with Christian ideals. Which it is. Isn't the Bible filled with tales of good vs evil? Of the insignificant winning over the worldly and powerful?
Yes; it (specifically the incarnation, passion, & resurrection) is also referred to by Tolkien as the one true myth to which all other myths pointed. Since he set out to write a myth, it's hard for me to imagine he wasn't both assuming and hoping that the myth he wrote would point to the true one.

And bringing up the word "myth" leads to lmp's point regarding mythic unity, which looks to me like the key to this discussion. Some, likeRaynor, see it; others take tentative stabs at it; and others insist it's not there.

I'm interested in those tempted to take tentative stabs at it. Us old warhorses have thumped this general topic (and some associated topics) to death over the past several years, and we can predict much of what the others will argue.

Let's hear from the rookies.
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Old 08-31-2006, 06:36 PM   #131
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Pipe The Meaning of 'Meaning'

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Originally Posted by SpM
Fine, as long as the reality can be established as a truth. More often than not, however, the word is used in a context whereby the supposed reality cannot be proven, but is a matter of faith.
No problem with that. Words are often used out of context, but that is the clearest definition of 'truth' (or 'Truth,' as you put it) that I've heard to date.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
Hmm. Countless pages of canonicity thread would suggest that it is not quite so clear-cut as you portray it.
There are countless pages of canonicity thread because there will always be a debate for what the text means to us. There will be many different interpretations of it, so of course there will be many arguments & discussion (all perfectly fine & good).

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
What if we cannot sufficiently determine the author's intended meaning?
Does that mean he didn’t intend one? I’m not saying we must find the author’s intended meaning to each & every book we read or there’s no point in reading it. What I am saying is his point is not dependant on my point of view.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
Am I fundamentally obliged to accept the author's intended meaning of the book as its true meaning? What if it does not strike a chord with me?
First question: No. You're not obliged to accept anything - no one is forcing you too. But choosing not to accept the intended meaning of a book (or even if you’re convinced you’re accepting the proper meaning & you, in fact, are not) doesn't alter the actual meaning. What if it doesn't strike a chord with you? Quite frankly, it doesn't matter! The author wasn't writing the book to strike the proper chord with The Saucepan Man (nor The Only Real Estel ). Smart authors are not going to try to write a book with the purpose of making their intended meaning strike the right chords with everyone. That would be impossible & a waste of time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
What if society has significantly changed since the book was written and the author's intended meaning is no longer relevant to me?
Say I write a book before the world is discovered to be round. I assert that the world is flat. When it is discovered to be, beyond the shadow of a doubt, round, does that change the intent of the book? No. Society has significantly changed & the book is no longer relevant to you but it hasn't changed the meaning behind my book a bit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
Why do I have to accept it as the meaning of the book if I perceive an entirely different meaning?
You can believe it or perceive it to be whatever you wish. That doesn't change it. If we all look at a book and decide to discover the author's intentions via our own perceptions two things will happen.

First, it will destroy the meaning of the book - no book could possibly have as many different meanings to it as we would come up with. Secondly, it would make conversation ridiculous. Why should we discuss the meaning of a book based soly on our interpretation of it? 'Misunderstanding' of the text is then in possible, because I have my interpretation & you cannot touch it. We are all right, so what’s the point of discussion?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
I can accept that the author may have intended his work to mean some specific thing. It does not follow that the work will have the same meaning to me, or indeed to others.
As I said - it can 'mean' many things to many different people. But that doesn't change the author's initial intention.

If I write a book on Hinduism & you interpret that I am a Hindu, that does not (at all) make you correct.

A stop sign in the road means ‘stop.’ If I decide it does not, that doesn’t change it.
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Old 08-31-2006, 06:54 PM   #132
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Originally Posted by The Only Real Estel
A stop sign in the road means ‘stop.’ If I decide it does not, that doesn’t change it.
Well, in Quebec (Canada), a decision was made which runs against decisions in many other countries. Stop signs in Quebec, unlike in France, read 'Arretez.' The Province of Quebec did decide to change it.

More seriously: Language has many functions and fulfils many needs in human society and culture. The form of language used in stop signs, exit signs, washroom signs, technical writing, instructions, legal codes are dependent upon highly important aspects of functions in that context. They are forms of language which attempt to control very highly the boundaries of interpretation--for very important and significant reasons. They operate very differently from literary language.

Literary language, the language of stories, of metaphor, of similes, of poetry, of rock music, of musicals (I would include advertising and political speeches, but they are subsets of this group with slightly different appeals) grants to readers/hearers much greater scope for interpretation, because the context and the purpose is very different. In these uses of language, the significant aspect is the active role of the reader in comprehension. Another way of saying this is that they are reader unfriendly!! They don't do al the work of the reader for the readers, but expect the reader to participate actively in comprehension. This is the high end of language comprehension in terms of how much work the reader must do.

My point here is simply to point out that language operates to satisfy many, many needs in human communication. What works with "reader friendly" language (informational/instructional language) does not necessarily work with "reader challenging" language. In Tolkien's work, I suggest that we are dealing with the literary end of human communication, "reader challenging" language, that end wherein Tolkien himself granted the greatest and most essential freedom of interpretation. For very moral reasons.
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Old 08-31-2006, 06:59 PM   #133
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
A belief in 'Sacred' fire at the heart of the earth is hardly original to Christianity. The whole point, which I made earlier, is that once an element is successfully absorbed into a Secondary World it becomes part of that world. The things Tolkien 'absorbed' into M-e are Religious universals, rather than specifics.
I suspect Tolkien would reverse your logic. The elements are universal because they point to the one true myth.

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If one didn't know he was Christian & had only the works I don't think - much as he might have hoped - anyone would be able to tell what religion, if any, he followed.

Hence, it is not a 'Christian' work.
I disagree that the second sentence followed from the first.
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Old 08-31-2006, 07:01 PM   #134
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bethberry
Literary language, the language of stories, of metaphor, of similes, of poetry, of rock music, of musicals (I would include advertising and political speeches, but they are subsets of this group with slightly different appeals) grants to readers/hearers much greater scope for interpretation, because the context and the purpose is very different. In these uses of language, the significant aspect is the active role of the reader in comprehension. Another way of saying this is that they are reader unfriendly!! They don't do al the work of the reader for the readers, but expect the reader to participate actively in comprehension. This is the high end of language comprehension in terms of how much work the reader must do.
I entirely agree. The 'stop sign' is but an example. I also entirely agree that Tolkien's work is a work in the 'literary language' you speak of. He left many things up to the reader, the reader's imagination, etc.

I am certainly for reading books in a literary sense also. Take in all you can, feel free to interpret, whatever you like. But I am quite sure Tolkien had his own meaning behind his works, despite his decision to leave much of the thinking up the reader.

And that is what "literary reading" does not change.
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Old 09-01-2006, 04:37 AM   #135
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Originally Posted by Raynor
I don't see how the fact that Tolkien intended "once upon a time" to make such a body of connected legends to dedicate it to England refutes the religious aspect of his writing. Moreoever, I believe he called this initial endeavour as absurd.
.
It precisely 'refutes the religious aspect' (if I follow you). It does not 'refute' the spiritual aspect though. There is a spiritual aspect to the world & stories, & to the characters. What there isn't, it seems to me, is any 'religious' aspect - Tolkien specifically denies the presence of organised religion.
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Old 09-01-2006, 05:07 AM   #136
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I can understand that if people are of a religious persuasion there is an attractive option always available to them, whereby they try and underpin and reinforce their belief by attributing its features to the works of authors , contending that the writer consciously or unconsciously used the belief framework as a basis for the book .

Sorry .

LOTR is FICTION .

You can use allegory to explain anything . I'm sure a devout Muslim could take LOTR apart and cite as many Islamic traits in the book as a commited Christian could . In the end it's all a meaningless exercise . Just enjoy the story .

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Old 09-01-2006, 05:20 AM   #137
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Originally Posted by mark12_30
Yes; it (specifically the incarnation, passion, & resurrection) is also referred to by Tolkien as the one true myth to which all other myths pointed. Since he set out to write a myth, it's hard for me to imagine he wasn't both assuming and hoping that the myth he wrote would point to the true one.

And bringing up the word "myth" leads to lmp's point regarding mythic unity, which looks to me like the key to this discussion. Some, likeRaynor, see it; others take tentative stabs at it; and others insist it's not there.

I'm interested in those tempted to take tentative stabs at it. Us old warhorses have thumped this general topic (and some associated topics) to death over the past several years, and we can predict much of what the others will argue.

Let's hear from the rookies.
I agree in Universal Myth, but precisely that. It doesn't belong to any one religion or faith, but to all. That to me is the point of something Universal.

I also wonder just how far the text points to a 'Christian' myth because I can honestly say it directed me in completely the opposite direction, as a young Christian when I first read the books!
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Old 09-01-2006, 05:57 AM   #138
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I don't know how many times it has to be stressed that just because a novel is (intentionally or accidentally) in sympathy with a particular religious philosophy that does not make it a 'religious' work. That Tolkien may (or may not) have written LotR to conform to the tenets of his Catholic faith does not mean it is a Catholic work. If Tolkien thought so then he thought wrong.

No-one is saying that LotR contradicts Christian belief/teaching at any point. But there are a number of belief systems one could put forward which are not contradicted by anything in LotR. I can't see how a story (or painting or piece of music) which does not refer directly or allegorically to Christianity can be called a Christian story (fundamentally or otherwise). If there is no direct or indirect mention or depiction of Christian/Biblical figures or themes then how it can be 'Christian' is beyond me.

Just because a book is written by a Christian writer does not make it a Christian book, anymore than if a Christian builds a car it is a 'Christian' car, or if he takes out the trash he is putting 'Christian' trash into a 'Christian' trash can.
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Old 09-01-2006, 06:02 AM   #139
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
It precisely 'refutes the religious aspect' (if I follow you). It does not 'refute' the spiritual aspect though. There is a spiritual aspect to the world & stories, & to the characters. What there isn't, it seems to me, is any 'religious' aspect - Tolkien specifically denies the presence of organised religion.
Ah. So we are separating 'religious' from 'spiritual'? In that case, some of your arguments make some sense, since what shines through LOTR is spiritual rather than legalistic or dogmatic.

Yes, Tolkien stripped LOTR of organized religion, letting the spirituality shine through. This is the essence of myth.

If a person had grown up bound by the rules and regulations of 'christianity' without the spirituality, then the spirituality of LOTR would draw, for them, no parallels to anything truly or deeply Christian. I would argue that such a legalized 'christianity' is a bankrupt and dead shadow of the real thing.

Tolkien's Christianity was no hollow legalism; one need only to read his letters to realize this. For him it was all about spirituality; and the spirituality flowed from the one true myth. If you see the spirituality in LOTR, then where do you think it came from? He was neither Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, or anything else but a devout Catholic. He believed that every myth reflected or pointed to the One True Myth. That meant, to him, that every pagan myth that had a ring of truth, owed that ring of truth to the degree to which it reflected the One True Myth.

Every mythic unity insofar as it was true, was, for him, was rooted in that One True Myth.

So back to the focus of this thread-- while I wouldn't say that Tolkien "stole" his characters from the bible, I would certainly say that his myth is infused with, reflects, points to, and is in many other ways thoroughly involved in, a myriad of mythic unities all emanating from the One True Myth.
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Old 09-01-2006, 06:04 AM   #140
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
I don't know how many times it has to be stressed that just because a novel is (intentionally or accidentally) in sympathy with a particular religious philosophy that does not make it a 'religious' work. That Tolkien may (or may not) have written LotR to conform to the tenets of his Catholic faith does not mean it is a Catholic work. If Tolkien thought so then he thought wrong.
In your opinion. Which, in your opinion, deletes the spiritual aspect of his Catholicism (spirituality being the essence of his faith) from your argument. And in my opinion, that deletion makes no sense. So, in my oinion, your argument makes no sense.

Read Leaf By Niggle lately? Or Tree and Leaf? Or Mythopoeia?
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Old 09-01-2006, 06:40 AM   #141
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Originally Posted by Mark
In your opinion. Which, in your opinion, deletes the spiritual aspect of his Catholicism (spirituality being the essence of his faith) from your argument. And in my opinion, that deletion makes no sense. So, in my oinion, your argument makes no sense.
No, Christianity is a religion & the religion of Christianity is absent from the book. Claims for the superiority of Christianity over other traditions without any supporting evidence is just cultural supremicism.

As to where Tolkien's 'spirituality' came from I have to admit I have no evidence as regards where it came from, so I'd just be making something up if I answered that. It could be it was a 'Pagan' spirituality (hence his deep love of nature), or a Christian one. Certainly he believed it came from his Catholic faith. My statement about 'spirituality' in the work was merely a reference to there being a 'spiritual' realm & beings within the story not to the story itself being a 'spiritual' work – which is a matter of opinion/subjective judgement.

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Read Leaf By Niggle lately? Or Tree and Leaf? Or Mythopoeia?
Nope – just finished Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy & now finally got around to Gibbon's Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire, so I probably won't be reading them again in the foreseeable future.
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Old 09-01-2006, 07:21 AM   #142
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Originally Posted by raynor
I see this rather often; do you accuse him of hipocrisy?
I rather agree with davem on the issue of the reliability of Tolkien’s Letters as determinants of his intentions with regard to LotR. One does not have to consider Tolkien a hypocrite in order to consider them to be inconclusive as to his intentions in this regard. Fascinating though they are, they were generally written in response to specific questions (and in some cases challenges) raised concerning the book and often consist of ex post facto musings on what he had written. As expressions of authorial intent, his Letters are sometimes inconsistent, both with each other and with other published material. Hardly surprising, given that his own perspective and opinions would naturally have changed over time. It is not a criticism.

Indeed that, to me, is one of the main difficulties associated with defining the meaning of a book by reference to authorial intent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raynor
Why? Does contradict any part of the story?
Davem’s point, and I rather agree with him here, is that Tolkien’s statement equating the Secret Fire with the Holy Spirit is irrelevant to the story itself. It is only relevant if you are either looking for Christian associations within the text or seeking to determine authorial intent. I have no problem with you doing either, as long as you do not seek to impose your conclusion on me by insisting that the Secret Fire must necessarily be equated with the Holy Spirit in order to properly understand the book, that this is part of the "correct" meaning of the book.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raynor
I don't see why he can't use terms of his mythology to reffer to real life situations, esspecially if his terms are widely known and understood.
One of the few points of discomfort that I find within Tolkien’s Letters is his use of the word “Orcs” to refer to real life people. In the context of LotR, Orcs are presented as (irredeemably?) evil beings and no moral issue is raised concerning their slaughter (unlike, for example, with the dead Haradrim solider). Are treecutters and motorcycle riders really to be considered in the same way? Tolkien is free to do so, but this does not form any part of my understanding of LotR’s meaning. Orcs have no real life equivalent as far as I am concerned.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raynor
Not in form, but that is something we agreed from the begining: Tolkien is not writing allegorically.
Indeed. Ergo, he is not seeking to impose his intentions upon his readers. He invites readers to find applicability within LotR. That puts the reader firmly in the position of being free to find his or her own the meaning within the book. If that excludes any Christian associations, whether Tolkien intended them or not, then who is anyone to object when Tolkien himself specifically endorsed such freedom of interpretation?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mark12_30
Yes; it (specifically the incarnation, passion, & resurrection) is also referred to by Tolkien as the one true myth to which all other myths pointed. Since he set out to write a myth, it's hard for me to imagine he wasn't both assuming and hoping that the myth he wrote would point to the true one.

And bringing up the word "myth" leads to lmp's point regarding mythic unity, which looks to me like the key to this discussion. Some, likeRaynor, see it; others take tentative stabs at it; and others insist it's not there.
I am no rookie (either on this site or in this kind of a discussion ), but this is precisely the kind of statement that I was referring to earlier – the assumption that the Christian interpretation of LotR is objectively the “correct” one. The implication being that, if we are one of those who cannot see it, we are approaching LotR “incorrectly”. That is a proposition which I reject entirely. Indeed, I do not necessarily accept the proposition that there is a universal myth at all (or at least one that is external to the human psyche).

TORE, you define the meaning of a book by reference to the intention of its author. My position is that this definition cannot be sufficient, because it is focussed only on the author and takes no account of the reader. The primary purpose of a novel such as LotR is to be read by a reader. After it has been written, it only has meaning when it is read. Accordingly, I find it difficult to see how a book’s meaning to the individual reader can be so easily dismissed.

As a reader, I can look at what the author intended to say, to the extent that this can be determined (and, as I have said, there are major difficulties involved with doing that), but that will only tell me what the book’s meaning was to the author. It may influence my own understanding of, and reaction to, the book, but it will not determine it.

For me, this is of vital importance in this debate as to whether LotR is a religious book. The author may have intended it as such (and I believe that, at some point, he did) but that does not determine its meaning to me. Some readers may consider it as such, but that does not determine its meaning to me. While the intentions of the author and the interpretations of other readers may be interesting to me, and may even influence my own understanding of the book, they still do not define its meaning as far as I am concerned.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TORE
First, it will destroy the meaning of the book - no book could possibly have as many different meanings to it as we would come up with. Secondly, it would make conversation ridiculous. Why should we discuss the meaning of a book based soly on our interpretation of it? 'Misunderstanding' of the text is then in possible, because I have my interpretation & you cannot touch it. We are all right, so what’s the point of discussion?
No, your propositions here do not follow at all from my definition of “meaning” by reference to individual readerly reaction and interpretation. There are many areas in which most peoples’ understanding of a book (and authorial intention) will coincide. When Tolkien tells us who was present at the Council of Elrond, we all understand that in the same way. It was Tolkien’s intention that those individuals be present, it is your understanding that they were present and it is my understanding that they were present. Because of our understanding of the language that Tolkien used, we all react to it and understand it in the same way. Our individual “meanings” coincide. So that allows us to discuss it on the same basis. But, when we consider, for example, whether Orcs were irredeemably evil or whether Frodo succeeded in his Quest (or indeed whether Tom Bombadil was a Maia or Balrogs have wings ), we will have different reactions and opinions (and these may well differ from the author’s intention). That does not forestall discussion but, rather, encourages it. Many of the discussions on this forum would have never taken place (or would have been a lot shorter) were it not for the fact that we all have different reactions to, and interpretations of, the book and are prepared to assert them as part of our understanding of its meaning. Through those discussions, our understanding of the book, it meaning to us as individuals, may change in certain respects. But the overall understanding, and therefore the meaning, remains unique to the individual.

And so it is with the proposition that LotR is a fundamentally religious book, or that Aragorn or Frodo or Gandalf is a Christ-figure. The author may or may not have intended either or both of these propositions to be part of its meaning. Other readers may or may not consider either or both of them to be part of its meaning. But it remains the case that neither of these propositions are part of its meaning as far as I am concerned.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TORE
As I said - it can 'mean' many things to many different people. But that doesn't change the author's initial intention.
No it doesn’t. But what relevance is the author’s intention to me (other, perhaps than biographically) if it does not coincide with, or influence, my own understanding of the book’s meaning? To me, while authorial intention (and the opinions of other readers) may be interesting and even influential, it is my own understanding of the book that is the most important, indeed the only "true" meaning.
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Old 09-01-2006, 07:51 AM   #143
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To the 'It's only fiction!' camp, I direct to you part of a quote from the movie V for Vendetta.

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Originally Posted by Evey Hammond
My father was a writer. You would've liked him. He used to say that artists use lies to tell the truth...
Lies exist solely to direct meaning. They are merely a separate form of truth, whatever truth is, not the opposition to it. Have you never experienced a situation in which you learn far more by how a person tries not to react to an experience than by how he does? Do you ever listen to what people make a conscious effort not to say? Take the time to listen to the quality of the silence? Every word holds within it secret meaning, if you take a moment to truly listen.

You ask why is fiction written; for any reason but to tell a story? Surely not. To direct meaning as such seems manipulative; dirty. The magic is lost for it. But what is a story but the artistic conveyance of an idea? And what is an idea conveyed as such but some veiled form of truth that the author finds important enough to share in such a way?

It is only fiction. Yes, it is fiction, but surely it is more than only.
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Old 09-01-2006, 08:14 AM   #144
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But what is a story but the artistic conveyance of an idea? And what is an idea conveyed as such but some veiled form of truth that the author finds important enough to share in such a way?
Ah, but it does not follow that what the author intends to convey is indeed the "truth".

Consider Mein Kampf.

Bad example, perhaps, because it was not intended as a work of fiction, but you get the point.
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Old 09-01-2006, 08:19 AM   #145
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Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
IInteresting points. But, despite Tolkien's reference to Faerie as the "perilous realm", Tolkien's Faerie (the Faerie of Smith of Wootton Major, for example) appears to me to be a rather different place to the Faerie of the original (pre-disney ) Faerie-Tales. The latter, it seems to me, is more accurately portrayed in the novel, Mr Norrell and Jonathan Strange - a truly perilous realm. Did Tolkien compromise the original concept of Faerie in order to bring it in line with his faith? If so, might it be said that, as far as Tolkien was concerned, the Christian themes within the book trumped its mythological roots?
Quite an interesting idea, eh, especially in light of Tolkien's own frustrations over what he perceived were Shakespeare's diminishing of the seriousness of Fairie.

Are you asking if Tolkien intended this? Or are you asking if the work itself can suggest this?

Certainly his depiction of evil and of horror is fascinating for their specific absence. That is, they are knowable not by their presence per se but by struggles of, in particular, Frodo and Sam, by the fear instilled in the characters. Was this a deliberate decision to avoid glamourising evil, as happened with Milton?

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Only Real Estel
I am certainly for reading books in a literary sense also. Take in all you can, feel free to interpret, whatever you like. But I am quite sure Tolkien had his own meaning behind his works, despite his decision to leave much of the thinking up the reader.

And that is what "literary reading" does not change.
Sauce's post previous to this one of mine supplies a good many reasons why it is difficult to determine from outside sources and after the fact just what an author's intent was, so I won't needlessly repeat them here. Plus of course even an author's intention can change over time, so initial statements of intention may or may not line up with final decisions. And sometimes, even, authors may not consciously be aware of how the story will affect readers.

Much depends upon how one understands the act of reading. It is not merely an activity of mining, of digging for and dredging up gems of meaning. This is not what actually goes on when people comprehend written language. Every word is mediated by the reader's previous experience of the words and by how the reader responds to the words, the characters. Reading is as performative as any other art. Some readings can be modified by pointing out errors of fact or of omission, some by pointing out where the reader has filled in 'gaps' which aren't there, but none of that really changes the fact that reading is an active process, not a passive one of simply receiving meaning.
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Old 09-01-2006, 09:19 AM   #146
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Quote:
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Ah, but it does not follow that what the author intends to convey is indeed the "truth".
It does if you don't consider truth to be objective.
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Old 09-01-2006, 09:26 AM   #147
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Originally Posted by Feanor of the Peredhil

It is only fiction. Yes, it is fiction, but surely it is more than only.
I don't disagree with you as regards that statement. But I don't think that's what we're arguing over. Its about whether LotR is a specifically Christian work, whether the 'more than only' is a specifically Christian/Biblical 'more than only'. So far lots of people have argued that it is, but no-one has given actual examples of how. To say well it contains elements of myth & Tolkien considered the Christian story the purest myth therefore anything that contains mythic elements contains Christian elements is hardly evidence. To claim it has a spiritual aspect & that for Tolkien Christianity was the source of sprituality therefore it is a Christian work is hardly evidence either.

What, exactly, are these specifically Christian aspects of the story? Are they really there, or was Tolkien simply interpreting 'universal' symbols in his own work from a Christian perspective? Even when he attempts to create a Virgin Mary figure, as he does with Varda, the result could as easily be applied to Isis as Queen of Heaven (not surprising considering much Marian iconography was derived from Isis).

He claimed he made little up. Possibly he did not fully understand what he wrote & interpreted it according to his own lights. Many mystics had the same experience. Julian of Norwich experienced a series of visions during a near fatal illness & spent the next twenty years trying to understand them, &, more importantly, ensure that her interpretations were strictly orthodox...
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Old 09-01-2006, 09:36 AM   #148
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Are you asking if Tolkien intended this? Or are you asking if the work itself can suggest this?
I am asking whether Tolien intended this. As readers, we are entitled to draw our own conclusions ...

There are elements of the perilous realm within Tolkien's writings - Old Man Willow and the Barrow Wight, for example - but overall it is sanitised. In particular, its "rulers" (Tom Bombadil, Alf the Prentice and Galadriel) are largely devoid of the tricksy, mischievous and sometimes immoral characteristics generally found in traditional Faerie beings.

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It does if you don't consider truth to be objective.
Precisely.
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Old 09-01-2006, 10:09 AM   #149
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Originally Posted by Sauce
There are elements of the perilous realm within Tolkien's writings - Old Man Willow and the Barrow Wight, for example - but overall it is sanitised. In particular, its "rulers" (Tom Bombadil, Alf the Prentice and Galadriel) are largely devoid of the tricksy, mischievous and sometimes immoral characteristics generally found in traditional Faerie beings.
Very true. At least for me, Galadriel is not terrifying. Jackson's pyrotechnics were horrifying, but that is a different matter.

Why do you think this difference exists between the malevolent aspects of Fairie and Tolkien's versions?


Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
What, exactly, are these specifically Christian aspects of the story? Are they really there, or was Tolkien simply interpreting 'universal' symbols in his own work from a Christian perspective?
I wonder if it would help matters if you could give an example, davem, of a work which you consider to be a Christian work? What would in your eyes consitute a successful Christian work?
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Old 09-01-2006, 10:25 AM   #150
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Why do you think this difference exists between the malevolent aspects of Fairie and Tolkien's versions?
In my view, because Tolkien sanitised Faerie to accord with the tenets of his faith. Hence my question:

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
... might it be said that, as far as Tolkien was concerned, the Christian themes within the book trumped its mythological roots?
If so, then that seems to me to be a good basis for arguing that, from the perspective of authorial intention, LoTR may properly described as a specifically Christian work, rather than simply a "universally mythological" one.
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Old 09-01-2006, 12:45 PM   #151
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Originally Posted by davem
It precisely 'refutes the religious aspect' (if I follow you). It does not 'refute' the spiritual aspect though. There is a spiritual aspect to the world & stories, & to the characters. What there isn't, it seems to me, is any 'religious' aspect - Tolkien specifically denies the presence of organised religion.
I disagree; I don't see in Tolkien the separation between myth, religion and spirituality - all of them are united. He has no problem in calling various Christian themes as myths and no problem either in calling myths a path to the Truth (thus, Imo, equivalating them, to a large extent, to religion). I will reinforce my previous quote from letter #89 that the gospels are the greatest Fairy-story
Quote:
Originally Posted by Epilogue, On fairy-stories
The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe.... This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.” There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.
More importantly:
Quote:
Originally Posted by He had been inside his language, Part Four, Tollkien biograpjy by H. Carpenter
Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall.
Of what fall does Tolkien talk about that myths takes us beyond? It seems to me, beyond doubt, that it is the Christian Fall, one thing which we cannot ignore when considering the core of his mythology.
Quote:
One does not have to consider Tolkien a hypocrite in order to consider them to be inconclusive as to his intentions in this regard.
So, if you are not saying that he is a hypocrite, then you are saying that someone else than the author is more trustworthy to identify his intention??
Quote:
I have no problem with you doing either, as long as you do not seek to impose your conclusion on me by insisting that the Secret Fire must necessarily be equated with the Holy Spirit in order to properly understand the book, that this is part of the "correct" meaning of the book.
This is a debate, nobody can "impose" anything. As far as I am concerned, Tolkien statement that the secret fire is the christian Holy Fire makes perfect sense to me; the story does achieve the "inner consistency" required for it to be a veritable, successful, subcreation.
Quote:
In the context of LotR, Orcs are presented as (irredeemably?) evil beings and no moral issue is raised concerning their slaughter (unlike, for example, with the dead Haradrim solider). Are treecutters and motorcycle riders really to be considered in the same way? Tolkien is free to do so, but this does not form any part of my understanding of LotR’s meaning. Orcs have no real life equivalent as far as I am concerned.
I really think that the treecutting business reffers to the New Shadow, where kids following a satanist cult start cutting down trees without any reason - them showing "most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good ". I don't know about the motorcycle riders being orcs, but fetishism of machines is a mark of evil to him, that is the least I can say. As far as orcs not being treated (or at least expected to be treated) appropiately, I disagree; Tolkien stated in Myths Transformed that orcs were supposed to be treated with mercy, [though it didn't always happen so during wars - then again, he identified orcs in Japan, Germany and even England who would behave truly evil].
Quote:
He invites readers to find applicability within LotR.
Err, I am not aware of such a statement; sure, he dislikes forced suspension of disbelief, but what he strives to achieve is to successfully reflect the Truth (the Christian one, I add) - that being the mark of a veritable fairy-story.
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Old 09-01-2006, 12:57 PM   #152
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
But I don't think that's what we're arguing over. Its about whether LotR is a specifically Christian work, whether the 'more than only' is a specifically Christian/Biblical 'more than only'.
Really? I was under the impression that I couldn't care less if LotR is Christian in nature, appearance, or dream. I only ever argued that if I wanted to see that meaning, nobody should have the nerve to say I can't.

I've always liked Voltaire. Think for yourself, and let others enjoy the right to do the same.
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Old 09-01-2006, 01:10 PM   #153
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Originally Posted by Bęthberry
I wonder if it would help matters if you could give an example, davem, of a work which you consider to be a Christian work? What would in your eyes consitute a successful Christian work?
Oh, the Narnia books, Pilgrim's Progress, HDM.
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Old 09-01-2006, 01:26 PM   #154
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Pipe Ponder on it a while...

Just a small note to throw into the discussion...

I was just re-listening to an interview with Tolkien that was on Radio 4 a while back. I downloaded it and put it on my iPod * sadsadsad *

In it, this little exchange took place:

Quote:
Interviewer: Where is God in The Lord of the Rings?
Tolkien: He's mentioned once or twice I think.
I thought that was interesting. If I knew how to upload sound files, I would...
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Old 09-01-2006, 01:53 PM   #155
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Pipe That interview in full

There are recordings and a transcript of the interview at News From Bree. Have I won something?
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Old 09-01-2006, 02:51 PM   #156
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Quote:
Interviewer: Where is God in The Lord of the Rings?
Tolkien: He's mentioned once or twice I think.
That would be:

Quote:
Gandalf crept to one side of the window. Then with a dart he sprang to the sill, and thrust a long arm out and downwards. There was a squawk, and up came Sam Gamgee's curly head hauled by one ear. 'Well, well, bless my beard!' said Gandalf. 'Sam Gamgee is it? Now what may you be doing?' 'Lor bless you, Mr. Gandalf, sir!' said Sam. 'Nothing!
&

Quote:
Merry went to the door: 'What about supper and beer in the throat?' he called. Frodo came out drying his hair. 'There's so much water in the air that I'm coming into the kitchen to finish,' he said. 'Lawks!' said Merry, looking in. The stone floor was swimming.
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Old 09-01-2006, 03:28 PM   #157
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
There are elements of the perilous realm within Tolkien's writings - Old Man Willow and the Barrow Wight, for example - but overall it is sanitised. In particular, its "rulers" (Tom Bombadil, Alf the Prentice and Galadriel) are largely devoid of the tricksy, mischievous and sometimes immoral characteristics generally found in traditional Faerie beings.
I'd agree with that! I think we've discussed this one before - in the Trickster thread and in davem's Fairie thread, and it did seem that Tolkien's own version of Faerie missed out a lot of the elements that Faerie traditionally has, such as chaos and amorality. If you look at drafts of the Silmarillion in particular, you can see that over time, Tolkien de-Paganised much of what he had originally written.

However, some of the biggest enigmas in his work seem to be hangovers from older versions of Tolkien's work, and trying to understand them, you find a lot of illumination in HoME; Tolkien did not always revise everything either, but left some things as he originally intended. For example, Ungoliant does indeed seem to have existed outside of all the creation in Arda, coming from 'The Void' and being neither good or bad, just being.

If Tolkien did try to sanitise his work, then he did not sanitise all of it! I think as a Catholic he naturally did not veer towards too much sympathy for 'evil' characters, which is possibly why there is no Miltonic Satan figure, but there are still some traces of the amoral and chaotic in the world he created, beings which may well be out of Eru's 'control'.

It's a question that fascinates me, after hearing Ronald Hutton talk about The Pagan Tolkien, and considering his influence on readers who think his work records real English mythology (it doesn't, it misses out all the sex and violence). And its worth considering that possibly a greater influence on Tolkien than his religion was his love of myth, particularly Northern myth, which was very non-Christian (but could be seen as quite Catholic, which is an old and quite visceral religion, built on even older and more visceral religions). Maybe at a later stage in life (in the twenties he was not much of a churchgoer) he became more uncomfortable with how the themes of these tales echoed in his own and did grasp at moments suggested to him which seemed more Christian.

Hmm, maybe even his idea that all myths pointed to 'The Truth' was reaction in itself to his own love for obviously pagan myth whereas he was a Catholic - so he came up with the idea that loving Northern myths was 'OK' for a Christian because they all pointed to 'The Truth' anyway. Self-justification? Or not, given that in Tolkien's day there was nothing at all 'evil' or dangerous about the occult like there is today for some Christians? And by the way, some Christians today are comfortable with both as we have a Spiritualist church here where a workmate, a devout Christian, is learning to be 'a psychic'.

Perhaps we have to learn not to be so 'fundamentalist' about the influence of religion on this work. Tolkien was a believer but not a tub-thumper (as Lewis in some ways was), and he was also incredibly subtle with his poetic language. So maybe we have to accept that there may be a few things that remind us of Biblical/Christian elements, but also accept that they are not put there to give us deeper understanding of the story, beyond basics also shared by other faiths such as pity, forgiveness and tenacity.
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Old 09-01-2006, 05:43 PM   #158
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Silmaril

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raynor
So, if you are not saying that he is a hypocrite, then you are saying that someone else than the author is more trustworthy to identify his intention??
No, not at all. I am saying that the Letters are generally inconclusive as to his intention. Hence the difficulty in ascertaining his intention. Hence the problems associated with trying to find the meaning within his works by reference to his intention.

Trying to divine authorial intention is all well and good, but it is an imperfect science without knowing the man's mind.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raynor
As far as I am concerned, Tolkien statement that the secret fire is the christian Holy Fire makes perfect sense to me; the story does achieve the "inner consistency" required for it to be a veritable, successful, subcreation.
But the imposition of the parallel between the secret fire and the holy fire is not only unnecessary for the success of the story (qua story), but it is wholly at odds with "inner consistency", since it requires the imposition of a concept external to the story. If you wish to find "meaning" within LotR by equating the two, that's fine. But I think that you are wrong to suggest that it is necessary, or even complimentary, to the story's "inner consistency". And why do you refer to the story as a "subcreation"? Surely it is simply a creation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raynor
As far as orcs not being treated (or at least expected to be treated) appropiately, I disagree; Tolkien stated in Myths Transformed that orcs were supposed to be treated with mercy ...
Can you give me any example of this occuring during LotR? Did Eru treat Orcs with mercy? Possibly, once they were dead. But allowing beings to be born within a disfigured body and a brutish, evil-serving society hardly seems merciful to me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raynor
... then again, he identified orcs in Japan, Germany and even England who would behave truly evil
He may well have done. But, in my view, there are few instances, even (or perhaps especially) in war, where one might label a person as truly evil. Mostly, they are just human.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raynor
Err, I am not aware of such a statement; sure, he dislikes forced suspension of disbelief, but what he strives to achieve is to successfully reflect the Truth (the Christian one, I add) - that being the mark of a veritable fairy-story.
In the second version of the foreword to LotR, where Tolkien discusses the difference between allegory and applicability, he disavows the former but readily admits the latter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
I'd agree with that! I think we've discussed this one before - in the Trickster thread and in davem's Fairie thread, and it did seem that Tolkien's own version of Faerie missed out a lot of the elements that Faerie traditionally has, such as chaos and amorality. If you look at drafts of the Silmarillion in particular, you can see that over time, Tolkien de-Paganised much of what he had originally written.
Yes, on reflection, I rather think that I meant amoral, rather than immoral.

I agree with you concerning the parallels between Norse mythology and Catholicism. But Norse mythology is quite far removed from the (original) concept of Faerie, is it not?
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Old 09-01-2006, 05:51 PM   #159
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Saucie-- we've agreed to disagree before, old chap. No hard feelings on my part; I'm hoping there are no hard feelings on yours either. But IMO, this does rehash a lot of the canonicity & eucatastrophe ground.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Feanor of the Peredhil
Really? I was under the impression that I couldn't care less if LotR is Christian in nature, appearance, or dream. I only ever argued that if I wanted to see that meaning, nobody should have the nerve to say I can't.
I'll take it a step further than that. The owner of this thread asked a simple question, which was this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mansun
Does anyone think Tolkien effectively stole many of his ideas from the Bible? Examples are the Balrog - Satan; Saruman/Grima - Judas; Gandalf the White resurrection; Elrond - Jesus?
If your answer is "Yep, professor's a thief," then state your list of items stolen.

If your answer is, "I wouldn't say stole but I think there are some things that connect," you may have some lengthy explaining to do.

But if your answer is "No, I don't think so, " that doesn't take very long to say.

This looks, to me, like a thread that's been hijacked. If you want to have a debate about whether making these connections is somehow forced or strained or immoral or illegal or what have you-- feel free to start your own thread.

There is plenty that I'd like to say about what I do see. I have no problem with someone else saying "I see nothing." But if you insist that I have no right to see what I see, do you seriously expect me to respect your insistence?

Meanwhile, the original intent of this thread is buried in replays of older threads. If we want to rehash old debates, let's take it back to the old threads.
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Old 09-01-2006, 08:13 PM   #160
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Originally Posted by SpM
TORE, you define the meaning of a book by reference to the intention of its author. My position is that this definition cannot be sufficient, because it is focussed only on the author and takes no account of the reader. The primary purpose of a novel such as LotR is to be read by a reader. After it has been written, it only has meaning when it is read. Accordingly, I find it difficult to see how a book’s meaning to the individual reader can be so easily dismissed.
Saucie there are millions of readers of a book such as Lord of the Rings. Does that mean that there are millions of different meanings out there? A book that has been written has a meaning. It is the meaning of the author. If no one ever read Rings it would still contain the meaning that Tolkien put into it. Now it does not have meaning to you until you've read it. And as I've said, I'm not dismissing the meaning to the individual reader - you can choose to make it mean whatever you want to you or whatever strikes the proper chord with you. But that doesn't make it so.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
There are many areas in which most peoples’ understanding of a book (and authorial intention) will coincide. When Tolkien tells us who was present at the Council of Elrond, we all understand that in the same way. It was Tolkien’s intention that those individuals be present, it is your understanding that they were present and it is my understanding that they were present. Because of our understanding of the language that Tolkien used, we all react to it and understand it in the same way. Our individual “meanings” coincide. So that allows us to discuss it on the same basis.
True. But why is there no discussion on who was at the Council of Elrond? Because we can all see the author's intention.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
But, when we consider, for example, whether Orcs were irredeemably evil or whether Frodo succeeded in his Quest (or indeed whether Tom Bombadil was a Maia or Balrogs have wings ), we will have different reactions and opinions (and these may well differ from the author’s intention). That does not forestall discussion but, rather, encourages it.
True. Why? Because we don't know (or at least there's significant debate) the author's intentions on these matters. These are good examples of "ultra-literary" parts of the books; Tolkien didn't exactly specify so there are at least several interpretations. But what would I use to support my side of the Balrog/wing debate for example? My opinion or my interpretation? Only if it was backed up by quotes from the book(s), possibly quotes from the Letters, etc. Why? Because I don't care what my interpretation (or anyone else's) is. If someone says: "My interpretation of the books is that Faramir had blonde hair" & posts a thread about it - what happens? Someone gives a quote from the book (black hair) & the thread is shut down because it is ridiculous. That person is welcome to think whatever they like concerning Faramir's hair - but we can see the author's intention and that is what we are all really hunting for. If we can't see it, it doesn't mean it isn't there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
...what relevance is the author’s intention to me (other, perhaps than biographically) if it does not coincide with, or influence, my own understanding of the book’s meaning? To me, while authorial intention (and the opinions of other readers) may be interesting and even influential, it is my own understanding of the book that is the most important, indeed the only "true" meaning.
I don't think there's any debate that Tolkien had intentions behind everything in his book. As a reader of the books I want to know what Tolkien's intentions were. Do I have to adopt them as my own? No - it'd be dreadfully boring if you had to accept the author's point of view just because you've read his book. An author may write a book on why solid oak tables are the best. If I prefer metal tables I don't have to change my preference - but that doesn't mean the author's point of the book changed. You can care not a button for the author's meaning & replace his with yours & that's fine.

What I am saying is simply this: That does not change the meaning of Tolkien's (or anyone else's) books. Tolkien himself set the meaning, we as readers can come up with our own but not change his.

We don't go to Balrog/wing threads saying "they have wings for me & they don't for you." Now inevitably we come to different sides of the debate but that's because of "I think Tolkien says they do" & "I think Tolkien says they don't" lines of thinking.

Therefore, if we are trying to decide if the books are 'Christian works;' rather than saying "They're Christian to me & non-Christain to you" (negating the point of discussion) we should try & find what Tolkien intended them to be. This being not quite clear, there will be much debate (as there has been) about it - just like there's debate about Tom Bombadil or the winged/wingless Balrogs.

But "mark" is right - although this is Tolkien-related and also related to finding Christian elements in the books it really is not as much on topic as it should be I don't think.

Then again I'm not a mod...
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