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Old 07-26-2013, 10:54 AM   #4
Shade of Carn Dûm
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
jallanite is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Originally Posted by Zigûr View Post
Evidently my sources were inadequate. Do you think, though, that de Camp draws too long a blow by implying that Professor Tolkien intended an overt association with Classical depictions of the Underworld and associated concepts?
That many (or possibly most) Old English dictionaries and articles of the time state that orcnēas was taken from Latin Orcus indicates that Tolkien was probably at least familiar with that idea. That does not mean he accepted it, but I see no reason to think he did not. It was the normal explanation and I believe it still is. That Tolkien intended that readers see a relation between orcs and Orcus I doubt, any more than he intended readers to see a relation between his tree-like Ents and Old English Ents, which simply means giants. In both cases Tolkien simply felt comfortable with the words, whatever their etymology.

Similarly Tolkien’s use of the name Vána for one of his Valar is possibly related to the class of Norse deities known as Vanir, and that name is thought by Norse scholars to be related to the name of the Latin goddess Venus.

Tolkien in none of these cases, except possibly with Ent, was at all concerned with the probable etymology of their real-world cognates.

The Sauron-sauros idea I continue to find strange. Despite being entirely familiar with the word via 'dinosaur' 'tyrannosaurus' and the like I never supposed that 'Sauron' was meant to be a play on the Greek word.
That seems to me to be a case of Wilson and De Camp accepting (or inventing) an etymology that made sense to them, without considering that Tolkien perhaps intended no such etymology. That Sauron is never connected in any way with dinosaurs or lizards is true. But then one would never imagine that -dor was connected with Labrador. The difference is that Tolkien never thought that his connection between -dor and Labrador was to be perceived by readers.

Consider Jane Chance’s continual insistence that Mordor means ‘murder’ because of a similarity between the words, while apparently never noticing that Tolkien continually tells the reader that mor- means ‘black’ and -dor means ‘land’, which she seemingly doesn’t notice.

I suppose I shouldn't begrudge Wilson his opinion, but having dealt with him before (in my Honours thesis, for instance) I can't help but feel like a) he entirely missed the point of The Lord of the Rings (treating it purely as bed-time reading for his daughter can't have helped), and b) he had already decided he disliked the book before he even started reading it.
Wilson continually notes that many people, including many respected by him, very much liked The Lord of the Rings. But then he refers to his own dislike of the work as a result of reading by a supposedly objective ‘reader’. In fact this ‘reader’ is only a stand-in for himself and no more objective than anyone else.

If Wilson had tried to explain why he did not fall under the spell of this obviously popular book, he might have written a good article. Instead he only provides ignorant and inaccurate hate-mongering. Almost all of us has encountered differences in literary tastes between our tastes and those of others. Wilson presumably has also. But in this case he tries to prove that his taste is superior by slandering the book and so doesn’t prove anything, except his own dislike for the book.

His idea that Orcs are driven away by heroes merely saying “Boo!” to them is just nonsense. Had Wilson not read Tolkien’s account of the destruction of Moria, the attacks of the Orcs on Rohan with many deaths of Rohan warriors, or their attacks on Minas Tirith with likewise many deaths. Nowhere in The Lord of the Rings is any evil creature driven off by anyone merely saying “Boo!” to it. The closest cases are the flight of the Nazgûl at Weathertop and Frodo and Sam’s getting past the images of the Watchers. But Gandalf explains that the Nazgûl had thought that the wound they had given Frodo would spell his doom and the spell of the images of the Watchers is overcome by the phial of Galadriel.

Wilson likes James Branch Cabell’s fantasies, and I agree with him there, but the perils in those books are mostly as easily overcome as Wilson imagines the perils are in Tolkien.

That Wilson’s seven-year old daughter loved the book proves nothing more than her liking The Hobbit and reading it again and again by herself shows that she was reading far above her age-level. That she understood everything in The Lord of the Rings I doubt. I recall as a young child being read stories which I enjoyed very much but did not understand except in places.
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