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Old 07-28-2021, 02:01 PM   #31
Legate of Amon Lanc
A Voice That Gainsayeth
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Originally Posted by BÍthberry View Post
Well argued, Legate.
Thank you.

Originally Posted by Thinlůmien View Post
Faery is fantasy, and fantasy is private - even if Tolkien's children visited Middle-Earth with him, it wasn't quite the same place as it was for him. It's not the same for anyone; we all have our private imaginations no one else can ever fully enter. To me, the story is a lot about this.
That is very nicely phrased, and absolutely true. That way, I can absolutely get behind it. My personal disturbance stemmed mostly from the fact that I exactly did not read it as allegory - being too much forewarned by Tolkien himself that he absolutely would never write one. You cheated us, Master, yess, yess. Wrote nassty allegoriessess.

Originally Posted by Thinlůmien View Post
I know Tolkien advocated fantasy as a means of escapism, but this story seems to say, too much is too much. You have to come back to real life, there are people who need you.
On the other hand, I have to point out that this is actually not true. Meaning the first part of the first sentence. Tolkien very much argued against fantasy being escapism in the sense of "running away from the world" and his whole On Fairy Stories is about that. Simply put, he says that one enters fantasy to get refreshed, which has clear benefits for the real world and for interacting with people around you. Also, after coming back to the real world, it enables one to see the world in a slightly different light. Every glade can become the glade where Elves can dance, any everyday object or unremarkable place can become a place of wonder because you have glimpsed their likes beyond the borders of Faery.

Originally Posted by Thinlůmien View Post
All that being said, I loved how faery itself was described. The Elf-Queen, very much like both Goldberry and Galadriel, the Elven party reminiscent of King Thranduil's forest feast, the fearsome Elven warriors with their ships, the magical flowering tree with the fruit... it's all very Middle-Earth, and very beautiful.
I agree that there are a gazillion similarities. The Elven ship, for one - the only thing remaining is that the Elves should set it on fire and we'd be all set. And the Queen is a ridiculous Galadriel. Unlike those that argued otherwise, I definitely see her as more Galadriel than Goldberry. If you read her description, Goldberry is the merry, unnaturally beautiful but ultimately humble lady, gorgeous as summer itself, but she is only the spirit of one small river. The Queen in Smith is Galadriel, or perhaps more: Melian; but her description is that of Galadriel, all white and radiant. She sees into the Smith's heart, they speak without words (didn't we have the thread on OsanwŽ somewhere on this forum?).

I concede that she may appear a little more Goldberry-ish when she meets the Smith the first time, but there she also reminds me of just a common, tra-la-la-lley girl from Rivendell. But the second time, she is definitely Galadriel/Melian. Her giving the gift of the strange blossom to the Smith (that they later keep in a box) also reminds me of Galadriel's gift to Sam (also flower - seeds - and also in a box).

Originally Posted by Thinlůmien View Post
There are rather unsettling things too, such as the lake that is not made out of water but of stone. Everything in Faery is very atmospheric and it was a joy to read.
This actually prompts me to speak about something else that has been on my mind. Just like it has been pointed out, the Smith reflects many of the theoretical themes of Tolkien's essay "On Fairy-Stories" in practice. One of these theorems is that the Land of Faery is dangerous. This brings me to another, perhaps not entirely expected (and for some perhaps controversial, but nevertheless undeniable) similarity: to that of H.P. Lovecraft's Dream-Cycle (famously especially in "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath").

One Lovecraft's story in particular seems very similar thematically to the "Smith", and that is "The Silver Key". There, the protagonist loses the key to his dreams that he had owned when he was a child, and that allowed him to visit strange places of forgotten beauty and see majestic kings and marvellous vistas. And that land, too, was beautiful yet dangerous.

Lovecraft is obviously one level "darker", I would say: but the border is close. The beautiful places in Lovecraft's Dreamlands are such that could exist in Tolkien's Faery, and the dark places in Lovecraft seem like they might be akin to what is hinted at in Tolkien, where his heroes never go. There is the fundamental difference that Lovecraft can be raw and naturalistic, "ugly" in a way Tolkien never would: he describes things like cannibals, which Tolkien could mention in passing - we know that the trolls wanted to eat the Dwarves, but he would not elaborate. Lovecraft might.

More importantly, despite nearly 100% overlap between the looks and feel of Faery and Dreamlands, there is a fundamental difference, testified already in the name. Lovecraft's Dreamlands are the stuff of dreams that in the worst case turn into nightmares. Dreamlands is not the product of a creative imagination, but the projection of wild subconsious. And the protagonist of "The Silver Key" does not enter the beautiful faraway lands the way the Smith does, there is the use of narcotic substances involved, however poetically described.

Nevertheless, the feel is very similar and I felt like I should point it out. (It is also of note that both writers published around the same time - Lovecraft a little earlier - although I sincerely doubt that there was any mutual influence; more like common influence from other literature that was popular at that time - for instance the abovementioned MacDonald. Some English/American literature experts would probably be able to speak in a more informed manner.)
"Should the story say 'he ate bread,' the dramatic producer can only show 'a piece of bread' according to his taste or fancy, but the hearer of the story will think of bread in general and picture it in some form of his own." -On Fairy-Stories
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