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Old 10-03-2002, 12:52 PM   #41
Nar
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elfling, welcome to the Downs, enjoy being dead! I agreed with your post.

Child of the Seventh Age, I do find something in these books, so that when you say 'England?' I say, 'yes.'

I guess what I want to find out is what made JRRT want to make an English body of myth and legend-- what about the land and/or the people near him did he want to express? I'll have to think about the points of comparison you provided. Tolkien's use of the Ocean and crossing the sea do seem to me to be tied closely to this purpose of making source-myths for England.

More or less quoting my post from the ‘...in the Shire’ thread: When I read RotK, I saw Theoden's charge as if a vision burned through the pages of the book – in contrast to the sections concerning Frodo or any of the hobbits where the narration's standing on the ground and there's a strong sense that one is in the landscape. I don't know where I'm standing on the fields of Pelannor-- mainly I'm seeing and hearing a battlesong and I seem to be floating, seeing and hearing from elsewhere. I know exactly where I'm standing reading Frodo and Sam in Mordor, how it physically feels-- or how it feels in the marsh between midges and neekerbreekers. The one point where I'm physically present in the narration and also seeing a remote vision is on the plains of Rohan, and I can’t see why that should be—still trying to figure that out.

It seems those roots you mention, Child are these parts of the story where it seems like a vision has burned through some unknown manuscript I'm holding in my hands.

Anyway, my reaction to you saying 'is it specifically English?' is 'Yes! --but in TWO ways:
primary experience: what JRRT drew from his life, experiences, and identity
and secondary experience: what JRRT drew from the literary sources he loved and studied. (that’s not meant to be a ranking of importance or value). Child, you seem to be interested in the role of that secondary experience: source-influence rather than life-influence.

Bethberry, I liked this idea of yours:
Quote:
To return to Anglic elements in Tolkien, it would be less the rural idyll or even the class model which you identify and more the way in which Tolkien has all the races--hobbit, dwarf, man, ent, elf--play significant roles in overcoming Sauron.
Yes, alliance between unlike peoples, (albeit with a healthy amount of grumbling and eye-rolling), that’s a theme, and somehow it ties into that way of evading conflict --Hobbits have some and Bombadil has much. I persist in thinking that (the theme of alliance) English. I think there’s more English in first half of the 20th century English to it than anything else. Life-influence, then. I think Rimbaud’s class issues, which I mainly agree with, are similarly life-influence. (Particularly if we include disscussion and debate with friends, family and collegues in the category of ‘life’. I’d like to think I’m having a ‘life’, but who knows? [img]smilies/eek.gif[/img] ) LMP, I think your examples of clan relationships are valid. I don't think Beregond's very good at remembering 'class' elements-- he's more like Sam after the journey through the marshes and Mordor than Sam before it.

Also, I thank you for your very kind words Child, but I must point out that this excellent quote is not from me but from Bill Ferny:
Quote:
Tolkien set out to find a particular soul for his beloved England, but what we found in reading him was something much more profound.
I was talking about the likelihood of projecting ones own ideas onto 'Englishness', which is why I'm so nervous about addressing this issue, although I think there's much to it. Bill extended the idea to Tolkien's goals for England and its stories.

Bethberry, while I like the tree metaphor, I think Child's on to something with the onion metaphor-- I like your expansion into onion: crying while cutting. I know you didn't mean that metaphorically, Child, but think about it. It's painful to dissect a living thing-- it defends itself with volatile oils! Like those irritable letters and prefaces on allegory and hatred thereof. The onion OBJECTS to being peeled and diced! How to choose between legends for England and love of languages as the 'Basics', I don't know. You're probably right, Bethberry, there's no way to choose one.

In conclusion, ‘England’ for me will always be summed up by the strange taste of artificial raspberry in those squares of concentrated dessert jello my mother shared out when I was a child and we spent 3 mos in Nottingham (we didn’t bother rehydrating the jello so it was VERY strongly chemical-raspberry)—I hope they’re still making them, or I can never go back to England. [img]smilies/eek.gif[/img]

[ October 03, 2002: Message edited by: Nar ]
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Old 10-03-2002, 03:02 PM   #42
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*chuckles and wipes eyes all at the same time*

So, the onions have it. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

I don't want to it to appear that I was uncharitably questioning Child's style of writing. I questioned the metaphor because it does not fit my way of interpreting Tolkien's origins, since I don't think we can dig down to one final, basic intention, the central point of the onion. It was my way of leading into the point where Child and I differ, that's all, and I am very grateful that I can discuss such differences with her. *curtsies respectfully to her and to all*

Who would have thought that talking of England would lead to metaphors drawn from cuisine? [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
*ducks and runs away before the Brits clobber me*
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Old 10-03-2002, 05:54 PM   #43
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Peeling onions and weeping as she does her post.....

Hey, I fell onto something last night that's very interesting. Maybe we're the only ones who make an artificial division between language and legend. Maybe Tolkien saw things differently. He could perceive the whole in a way that a dimwit such as myself could not. As a result, he would never sharply distinguish, and indeed did not want to distinguish, between language and legend.

Take a look at this whole string of quotes which suggests that, for Tolkien, linguistics and mythology ran in tandem:

Quote:
It was just as the 1914 War burst upon me that I made the discovery that "legends" depend on the language to which they belong; but a living legend depends equally on the "legends" which it conveys by tradition.... So though being a philologist by nature and trade...I began with language, I found myself inventing "legends" of the same "taste" Letters, 231
Another example:

Quote:
Many children make up, or begin to make up, imaginery languages. I have been at it since I could write....But an equally basic proposition of mine ab initio was for myth (not allegory!)...and above all for heroic legend on the brink of fairy tale and history Letters 143-44
The italics are mine, as this certainly bears on our image of Tolkien with one foot in the actual soil and history of England and the other in the England of poetic tradition.

Still another comment linking the two:

Quote:
I began the construction of languages in early boyhood....But I was equally interested in traditional tales (especially those concerning dragons) Letters, 345
It can't be mere coincidence that, in each of these cases, language and legend are inseparably linked.

And there's one more, even spookier, example. Tolkien composed his first lexicons as a young man--Quenya was begun in 1915, and Gnomish in 1917. (Is Gnomish Sindarin?) But he did not perceive these as free-standing grammar tools. They had to be co-opted into the legends themselves.

They were presented as texts composed by Eriol, the historical figure of the 5th century English mariner who acted as the narrator of the stories. The Gnomish one was also at another time attributed to Rumil the Sage of Tol Eressea. And remember at this time Tol Eressea was interpreted as Britain.

In fact, last night, I reviewed BoLT, The Shaping of Middle-earth, and the Lost Road in terms of the "English" framing devices which Tolkien used for the Silm in this "early" period. And this period ran from 1916 through at least 1937. In every single major manuscript of this period--and there are about 9--he used an English narrator to tell the tale. There is a great discusion of this in Tolkien's Legendarium --a chapter by Charles Noad on "The Construction of the Silmarillion".

First, there was Eriol the narrator, the 5th century mariner, and from 1925 on, there was Aelfwine the narrator and storyteller, the figure from 10th or 11th century Wessex (Leave it to Tolkien--he keeps changing his mind!). And in this same period of composition, 1916-1937, with only one exception, the country of Britain always appears within the Silm. First, it is identified as Tol Eressea. Later it is separated out and becomes the shattered remnents of Beleriand, an isle sometimes called Leithien. In fact, as late as 1958, Tolkien was still flirting with the concept of the narrator/storyteller as a man of historical English origins.

Later on, of course, with the LotR, the narrators become Bilbo and Frodo. But it is no coincidence that they are from the Shire. That means, in Tolkien's eyes, they are from England! Just like the earlier narrators Eriol and Aelfwine. Because the Shire was certainly England to Tolkien. In fact, near the end of this life, Clyde Kilby stayed one summer with Tolkien, and he asked him why the hobbits never appeared in the First or Second Age. Tolkien said they couldn't because hobbits are English and you can't have hobbits before you have the Shire.(By this time, he had discarded England from the Legendarium except in the guise of the Shire.)

So the Silm/Legendarium is , on one level, a story told by English storytellers who were all Elf-friends(Eriol, Aelfwin, Bilbo, Frodo), and then retold by an even later English storyteller, Tolkien himself, also certainly an Elf-friend.

What's even stranger is if you think of this information in terms of The Lonely Star (or RPG). We have the evolution of the early hobbits occur on the islands that are left from the shattering of Beleriand, the same place that Tolkien claimed was England. Only, of course, we didn't consciously realize this connection when we initially wrote that into the story. (Plays spooky music as the Lonely Star sails away.)

[ October 03, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 10-04-2002, 02:22 PM   #44
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Something never quite sat right with me in terms of Sharon's identification of the "core of the onion" - the most basic element of Tolkien's Legendarium - as primordial Englishness. I do love that Englishness, but that is for reasons I will discuss below. Though I liked Bethberry's idea better, I was not entirely satisfied with the double-core of language/legend, though I do acknowledge it as a central element. I was not, however, able to put my finger on precisely what the problem was; I was left with a gnawing dissatisfaction while bowing to Child's and Bethberry's erudition and quoted evidence. Helen's post went a long way toward helping me to piece together the puzzle. Onward:

Legend and language are indeed intertwined, but they are not at the core (onions have no core, which is probably my major problem with that analogy). There is a deeper root, a tap root, that is the source of all mythic story. Let me illustrate this in my own imaginative life.

By genetics I am half Frisian and half Dutch (Most non-Frisians would simply call me 100% Dutch; we Frisians will never concur.). Historical evidence reveals that I have a fraction of French blood on my mother's mother's side. Against all historical evidence, I'm convinced that I have Celtic blood. Nevertheless, I am American by accidents of history, and thus my native language is English.

I do not say that my native language is American. This is in part due to education, and more significantly to my early exposure and heavy cognitive and spiritual influence by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Whereas Lewis says that his imagination was baptized by George MacDonald, I say that my imagination was baptized by Tolkien (and was communed with Lewis).

The reason my imagination could be baptized by Tolkien is because I am an English speaker, and am deeply rooted in all things English. Thus Tolkien's Legendarium, deeply rooted in English language and legend, is the medium par excellence to convey that Something at the tap root, to my imagination.

Helen aka Mark_ch#._v#., posting on "that other thread", described a particular kind of desire; it has a name. C.S. Lewis called it "Sennsucht". Corbin Scott Carnell, in Bright Shadow of Reality: C.S. Lewis and the Feeling Intellect, wrote:

Quote:
Sennsucht, which literally means "longing" or "yearning," is both romantic and mystical in our present use of those words. It is, however, a good deal more specific than such terms. ... The crucial concept in defining this attitude is best expressed in English by the word "nostalgia". Even though Sennsucht may be made up of several components or appear in different forms (melancholy, wonder, yearning, etc.), basic to its various manifestations is an underlying sense of displacement or alienation from what is desired.
In summary, Sennsucht is desire for something wondrous that is no more with us, but once was, and may be again. In different languages it has different names. In Hebrew it is called Eden. In Arthurian legend (Celtic, I suppose) it is called Avalon. In the language of C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, it is perhaps called Perelandra. In Roman Catholic speech it is called Paradise. In other languages it is called Elysium, Nirvana, Valhalla, the Great Hunting Ground, and so forth. Some might call it Atlantis, or Numenor; perhaps Tol Eressea or Valinor (feel free to quibble). The only name that is sufficient for me, is Faerie; as I said, my imagination was baptized by Tolkien.

From this tap root that I call Faerie, springs many different trunks of legend and myth, alive with the sap of language spoken by the caretakers of the myths and legends in each tongue. We English speakers need Tolkien and Beowulf. Italians need Dante and Virgil. The Germans need Faust and the Nibelungenlied. And so on. Yet since English has become THE international language, Tolkien's works have spread as far as the language has. And Tolkien's work communicates, at its deepest root, Faerie - that Something that once was, that is now lost, but may against all odds and evidence, be renewed one day.
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Old 10-04-2002, 04:07 PM   #45
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Hi Child, liked the points you covered in your post.I also think that Tolkiens inspiration is drawn directly from the countryside he knew, lived in and revered so dearly. Specifically, the true essense of the Shire itself is to be found in the deep South West of England. Devon, Somerset, Glastonbury and Wiltshire all have scenery and places - still unspoiled by man - that is pure magical Shire country.
Taking that geographical source one step further east, and you have true Barrow Downs country too, Stone Circles, Henges, Barrow mounds strange and forgotton places, more than a little reminiscent of ME's landcape just East of The Old Forest.
Beyond the Downs before the last Ice Age, England herself was utterly linked by a vast land bridge to the Continent of Europe. I dont know where I'm going with this, but I think that the landscape of England and Europe has- even today- a strong undercurrent of Tolkiens Middle Earth/Europe, you just gotta take time to see it ;-)
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Old 10-04-2002, 07:07 PM   #46
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Quote:
And Tolkien's work communicates, at its deepest root, Faerie - that Something that once was, that is now lost, but may against all odds and evidence, be renewed one day.
Ah, indeed, lmp, you bring us back full circle and remind us of the larger parable. I would agree with you that the English countryside succeeds not because it is the literal, factual countryside, but because it partakes of faërie. *curtsies to an argument nicely rounded, to my mind*

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Old 10-05-2002, 08:37 AM   #47
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And now for something completely different.

Begging your pardon that I must needs break character in order to explain how my genealogical background shows that in fact, I am related to myself.

England, indeed. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] * good-natured smile from one of British descent through relation to William the Conqueror *

Below please allow me to quote from a short file I received in e-mail from my father, whose interest in genealogy rivals that of any Hobbit. And when I asked in a phone discussion if his information was mere literary legend, I was told that in fact the information is based on actual history. I plan to question further to find out what sources the following information comes from, but meanwhile, I can't resist sharing this quote from my father:

Quote:
Alfhild Gandolfsdatter: Birth; about 665 in Denmark, Death 759 in Uppsala, Sweden: (Occupation: Princess of Sweden and Denmark)
Spouse: Sigurd "Ring" "the Sea King" Randversson [A King in Sweden and a King of Denmark] (Note: Sigurd was Alfhild’s half brother. Alfhild was raised by her stepfather, Randver Radbartsson, (a king of Sweden.) Randver was the grandson of Radbard, a king in Gardereige, Russia. Note: Sigurd “Ring” Died in 812 in Battle of Bravalla, Denmark. Note: Alfhild was already 65 years old when her husband Sigurd was born, obviously the marriage was arranged to assure that Sigurd would be king in two kingdoms at the same time.
Alfhild’s father was Gandolf Alfgeirsson
Gandolf Alfgeirsson was a king in Norway b: ABT 0710 in Vingulmork, Hedmark, Norway.] Mother: unknown
Just a reminder:
Name: **Frotho Frodo
Sex: M
Birth: 0820
Death: 0885
Occupation: King of Staelland in Denmark

I wonder how many other names of our ancestors may have been borrowed by Tolkien for his book!
Gandalf ... descended from Gandolf, kin to Frodo
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Old 10-05-2002, 08:48 AM   #48
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Hullo Bethberry,

Fascinating that you'd be discussing parables this week. I'd be very interested and grateful if you could go into further detail. * bows *

As for me, I spent part of this week wondering about the possibility of quoting from Tolkien to a group of people who've never read Tolkien's works and seem prejudiced against him, and only revealing that I was quoting Tolkien after the group of people started nodding their heads in agreement with the points the quotes were making. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

But then, perhaps the only place where like minds and kindred spirits such as ourselves can gather in a haven of understanding is somewhere like here, the Barrow Downs.

Gandalf the Grey

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Old 10-05-2002, 08:48 AM   #49
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Gandalf (or Gandolf if you prefer), I give you good greeting.
:: doffs bard's cap, and replaces ::
Those names in your lineage brought a catch to my throat! Wonderful! You have read the Heimskringla, I suppose?

This makes for an interesting point. Anyone whose stock comes from Germanic roots, can, with effort, have that same Something communicated to her/him through ANY set of Germanic languages/legends. The Nordic legends and names make me quiver with delight.
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Old 10-05-2002, 09:04 AM   #50
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Warm return greetings littlemanpoet:

You've crossed my mind this week for the very odd reason (pardon me for breaking character yet again) that "LMP" is one of the variables I catalogued for a database at work! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

I regret to say that I have not read the Heimskringla, but I offer thanks for your pointing me in that direction. * bows *

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Old 10-05-2002, 09:39 AM   #51
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Gandalf--

There's also the Frodo/Frothi (both mean 'the wise one') of Norse legend. Of course, you never know with legend. It may be a flight of fancy, or have roots in reality. Unfortunately, I know of no Gandalf/Gandolf ties, but our knowledge of these things is very limited.

Several 13th century sources (Saxo Grammaticus, Snorri Sturluson) say that he was a contemporary of Christ. During his reign, there were no murders or wars or robberies. Gold rings lay untouched in the open. The peace came from Frothi's magic mill which was eternally worked by two female giants grinding out peace and prosperity.

But even Frothi could not escape from evil. Concerned about his people, Frothi would never let the giants rest until, in revenge, they ground out an army to kill him. The army they'd created now forced the giants to grind salt. They sailed away together. The giants ground so much salt that the boat capsized. Now they work on at the bottom of the sea, and this is why the sea is salty.

So this Frothi, though well intentioned, came to a sad end.

sharon

[ October 05, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 10-05-2002, 09:49 AM   #52
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Fascinating, Child of the 7th Age.

The legend you speak of might help to explain such archetypal images as salt tears and frothy seas. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

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Old 10-07-2002, 06:10 PM   #53
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Gandalf,

Descended from Gandalf'sdottir! Amazing.

I also would want to explain further the points about parable as a particular form of narrative. The argument might become some what long, however, so with your permission, I will take it to email.

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Old 10-26-2002, 12:52 PM   #54
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There is an interesting letter Tolkien wrote to his American publishers, the Houghton Mifflin Company, in June 1955 which has not been mentioned here yet. It is letter 165, and is, of course, subject to the usual caveats (or those I would make, at any rate), about how authors construct their origins.

Quote:
I am in fact far more of a Suffield (a family deriving from Evesham in Worcestershire), and it is to my mother who taught me (until I obtained a scholarship at the ancient Grammar School in Birmingham) that I owe my tastes for philology, especially of Germanic languages, and for romance, I am indeed in English terms a West-midlander at home only in the counties upon the Welsh Marches; and it is, I believe, as much due to descent as to opportunity that Anglo-Saxon and Western Middle English and alliterative verse have been both a childhood attraction and my main professional sphere. (I also find the Welsh language specially attractive.) I write alliterative verse with pleasure,....

...I first set foot in 'Eire' in 1949 after The Lord of the Rings was finished, and find both Gaelic and the air of Ireland wholly alien--though the latter (not the language) is attractive.

...the remark about 'philology' was intended to allude to what is I think a primary 'fact' about my work, that it is all of a piece, and fundamentally linguistic in inspiration. The authorities of the university might well consider it an aberration of an elderly professor of philology to write and publish fairy stories and romances, and call it a 'hobby', pardonable because it has been (suprisingly to me as as much as to anyone) successful. But it is not a 'hobby' in the sense of something quite different from one's work, taken up as a relief-outlet. The invention of language is the foundation. The 'stories' were made rather to provide a world for the language than the reverse. To me a name comes first and the story follows. I should have preferred to write in 'Elvish'. But, of course, such a work as The Lord of the Rings has been edited and only as much 'language' has been left in as I thought would be stomached by readers. (I now find that many would have liked more.) But there is a great deal of linguistic matter (other than actually 'elvish' names and words) included or mythologically expressed in the book. It is to me, anyway, largely an essay in 'linguistic aesthetic', as I sometimes say to people who ask me 'what is it all about?' It is not about anything but itself.
Carpenter's introduction to the letter is quite amusing, presenting as it does Tolkien's exasperation with the reductive nature of the American journalist's questions to him. Apparently when asked what makes him tick, Tolkien replied, "I don't tick. I am not a machine."

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Old 07-05-2004, 10:56 AM   #55
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Bringing it up for the sake of Book I Chapter 03 thread

Up up it goes
And, maybe, it grows....


Or, before people there reach out of the Shire...
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Old 07-06-2004, 12:59 PM   #56
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Err this is going back a long way in the thread... but I am a Brit who has travelled faily widely and I think that New Zealand was a great choice for MiddleEarth.... it has the geography and parts are very English... but an England of an earlier age... I wasn't alive in the fifties but it is how you imagine it..... a much safer, friendlier place... I mean I know the midlands and Oxford well through family links and education and teh countryside is the shire... and I live near "Mirkwood" but NZ has it all ........

BTW if we are showing off about ancestors ...Shakespeare is my manyx great-uncle by marriage lol
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Old 07-07-2004, 06:05 AM   #57
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I am committing a heinous crime here in my own eyes at least, jumping in here with a post without having thoroughly read all previous posts in the thread. I'm sorry, I will read all later, but I'm very busy at the moment...many of the posts are just terrific, and I want to give them my best attention.

But I wanted to make a couple of points before this thread slipped back down to the second page.
I am not English but I have lived here for most of my life and I love this country. But what is it exactly, I wonder, that I love, and is it also what Tolkien loved? Previous posters who talked about the lack of concrete cultural identity in England are right. In fact, you might almost define English identity by its contradictions and confusions.
Given this, I don't actually agree that Anglo-Saxon England was 'real' England and that subsequent Englands were not. I don't think it is possible to pause the videotape of history at a certain point and say, yes, this is genuine, this is ideal, all that came before and after is not.
And as far as the 'Englishness' of the Shire is concerned, I agree that it is a kind of ideal, a rural idyll - but Tolkien was sharp enough to be very aware of his ideal's limitations. Frodo is often frustrated by the parochial, narrow-minded attitudes he encounters among his fellow hobbits. Perhaps this is true of rural communities everywhere, not just in England.
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Old 07-07-2004, 05:52 PM   #58
Araréiel
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Silmaril

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One of the times I went to the ER I had with me The Hobbit. The doctor commented that the books help many of Tolkien's opinions of society, and was almost his reaction to it. One holding all the power leads to greed and corruption, no one thinking the little guy can do anything of signifigance. If given the opportunity, many will choose power over common good. If given the chance to get rid of something that can give one power, one has a difficult time getting rid of the power, even if one does not want it.

According to the doctor, England held a major signifigance to Tolkien, aside from it just being where he lived. He felt certain ties to his homeland, as I think many of us do to some extent (btw, in my neck of California, I know of one place that looks exactly like many of the places shown in the films, so much it's earie). (The doctor and I talked quite a while! It was a slow night in the ER and I wasn't dying, so it was enjoyable.)

However, I do feel a certain sacriledge in the movies being filmed in NZ when it was England Tolkien used for inspiration. Of course, it helps that Old England is similar to what most of us imagine in fantasies, helped along by book images and such that taint out subconscious thoughts!

I watched a documentary as well that spoke of how many places were important to Tolkien, and for different reasons. Certain locations of the books reflect those places (it's been a while since I saw the doc). But it did make me wonder how many of the locations of which Tolkien wrote really are real. In Chapter 3, he is so clear about the Hobbits' journey into the wood and the valley and where they were leading up to meeting Tom that I wonder if he was writing about a place he had actually visited. Maybe he was relaxing in a forest and came to something that looked something like what he described. The detail is so incredible that it seems it must be some place real.

I took a paper and pen the last time I read that chapter (two days ago) and drew out what he described, and their path, and the directions. Such as something being left showing they went to far this direction, or the shadows came from that direction. Not a single error could I find, and I'm good at finding errors in such complex narration. This particular forest, and the valley, must be real somewhere.
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