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Old 04-29-2021, 02:36 AM   #20
Legate of Amon Lanc
A Voice That Gainsayeth
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I have finally the time to join in. Let me start just on the Foreword first...

Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
We have the scene set in England, but in a time that cannot be precisely set, much like Middle-earth (but much less removed).
It too struck me as obvious forerunner (well, or not exactly forerunner, rather, co-runner) of all the Aelfwine stuff and the attempt to frame also Middle-Earth into an "oh, this is real-world translated from ancient XY". Tolkien clearly was a lot into this, or at least he had a stage where he had been very much using that form.

It actually made me think not that it was just a satire, as some have mentioned here, but that perhaps he was simply following certain trends that had been there in 19th century and its echoes were probably still present, or it may have had enough influence on Tolkien in his youth and studies.

I am referring to the whole "hobby" many writers picked up around the time when all the national revivals were popping up around Europe and the renewed interest in trying to find old national myths. And that whole era marked with discoveries (and perhaps even more often, "discoveries") and renewed interest in national epics and stories (and not just among scholars, but exactly among the wide public) - ranging from real ones like the Niebelungenlied, through collected and admittedly modified ones like the Kalevala, to utter fakes presented as real things, like the Scottish Ossian or the Russian Slovo o pulku Igoreve (yes, I know it is still being debated, but I am with those that think that enough proofs have been made to show that it was fake).

I mean, did not Tolkien himself say that with his legendarium, he started with the ambition to write an "authentic" English myth? It is exactly the same kind of approach that the authors of the "fake myths" had, only admitted one. He had the advantage of having the distance of a hundred years from all that, but I can imagine how doing that would appeal to a writer with an interest in history and linguistics. Heck, it would appeal to one even now!

So Farmer Giles seems to me to be a by-product of the same "hobby". The "hobby" that many writers had had, well, since antiquity in fact (Journal of Dictys), but spiked again in recent past and could have been an inspiration to Tolkien, something he wanted to try. Obviously, Giles *is* framed as a joke, but that does not matter - it was an exercise utilising the same form, only not with a serious intent. But in technical terms it is no different from the fake manuscripts - an educated writer that knows something about a certain past era writes a completely imaginary story and plays with the ideas on how to connect it to existing places and other known myths.

Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
In regards to the Forward, when Tolkien references the "Little Kingdom" I believe the conjecture is that he was referring to Surrey or Frithwuld's Surrey, a 7th century sub-kingdom of Mercia. Let the anachronisms begin with Giles' blunderbuss.
With my very generic knowledge of the history of Britain with many gaps, I always wondered whether "Little Kingdom" referred to something "real" (as in, that there was actually something called that, by whomever). So I take it that there wasn't, but if you wanted to take it as "real", you could identify it with something?

Originally Posted by BÍthberry View Post
Tolkien's Foreward satirises scholarly concerns at the time over the origins of fairy tales and nursery rhymes. King Coel is non other than a reference to the children's nursery rhyme about Old King Coel, who was a merry old soul, who called for his pipe and his bowl and his fiddlers three. There had been much scholarly ado trying to discover which historical character is referred to in the nursery rhyme but scholars came up empty handed (or dry penned?) Sir Walter Scott even joined the speculation There were attempts to link Coel with Arthur's legends. So all in all this little satirical reference shows Tolkien's own interest in the legends and possibly the mythology of his little island, an interest which produced what we now know as The Book of Lost Tales, while providing, significantly, a satirical slight on the study of nursery rhymes not as art or story or entertainment but as historical content
This is basically in line of what I was thinking. And nice, even with my only second-hand experience with English nursery rhymes, I immediately thought that this was referrence to Old King Coel - I am glad this confirms it.

Originally Posted by Thinlůmien View Post
Also, I'm a little saddened I only have the book in Finnish; while the translation is good, the story is so English that it seems already after the introduction that one is losing quite a bit by not reading it in the original. I'll cope, I guess!
Yes, there is no copy of English Farmer Giles in our house - I, on the other hand, am reading it in Czech translation. Nonetheless, I believe it is a quality one, and perhaps we are going to stumble upon something that will stand out differently in that way.

Originally Posted by Thinlůmien View Post
Now that I think of it, it's rather fascinating how he often wrote - in a way - for scholars and children at the same time, which is not really a common combination.
Really? I actually disagree. Or, okay, maybe it is not *as* common, but I think there is a lot of books - and that is actually the best kind of literature in my opinion - that are written "for children", but have some hidden jokes in there if not necessarily for scholars, then for the parents. And often these can be pretty elaborate, up to the point of being rather "for scholars" than for any "average parents". I'm thinking you might find probably something like that in the Moomins. But at least the "inside jokes for parents" is certainly a thing that is present in a lot of things written for very little children (it is probably there for the relief of parents who would otherwise have to plough through some stupidity just because their child does).

Originally Posted by Thinlůmien View Post
Or how many others would bother to establish what language the story is written, and what they're telling us it was translated from? And the trope of the somewhat unreliable translator-narrator passing on an old story, obscuring the truth of what "really happened," is of course the second thing. It is very much like the whole narrative framing of the Red Book of Westmarch.
That is exactly what made me think about the "fabricated old epics" framework.

Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
Farmer Giles has never felt quite Middle-earthen to me, which makes him stand stand out from both Roverandom and The Hobbit, which are its nearest comparisons in his catalogue.
Interestingly, Giles to me somehow seemed fairly Middle-Earthy on first reading: maybe it was because of the dragon. But let's see if I get the same impression this time.

Originally Posted by Rune Son of Bjarne View Post
I know nothing of latin, but I have taken an interest in the Eastern Roman Empire (don't be surprised if I start a thread drawing comparisons with Gondor) and so I recognise the Greek title of Basileus in the title of the king.

My guess is that it is used in accordance with Byzantine customs to mean emperor. It could also just mean king, but rex is already part of the title so it seems unlikely.

Anyways, I am mystified why a greek word appears in our story. I mean as far as I know it was never used in Latin...
I think Morthoron has already addressed that; personally I recall (but do not have a source at hand) Basileus used somewhere in some circumstances in the medieval Latin-speaking world too, maybe as the sort of mix-and-match, and exactly redundantly in the sense like this. Otherwise at least as far as I can speak for 1-3rd century Greek, basileus was simply a "ruler" there. For that matter, the world "tyrannus" also was not originally Latin (although that was being used), and it just sounds like adding more redundant titles that just make it sound like "how many times can we say that I am a ruler in different ways to hammer the point". But if you read the King's name and simply swap "basileus" with "ruler", it sounds perfectly normal.
"But it is not your own Shire," said Gildor. "Others dwelt here before hobbits were; and others will dwell here again when hobbits are no more. The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out."
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