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Old 07-04-2003, 10:52 AM   #1
Imladris
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Tolkien Tolkien's theme

We all know that Tolkien hated allegory, so I don't even want to discuss any allegorical issues comparing Tolkien to the Bible, etc (like what happened a year ago). I know that there was a post about what your favorite theme was, but I want to know what do you think Tolkien's theme was? (I know he denied this, but, face it, everything you do has a point.) Some critics have said death. And now there is a huge discussion on Tolkien's view on killing. Also there has been a post in the past wondering if religion influenced Tolkien's work (which I think it does because what you believe is what influences your writing). But I want to know what you guys think Tolkien wanted his story to say? What was his theme? I am sorry if this has been done before, but it all seems as if they were discussions on whether this or that influenced his writing.
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Old 07-04-2003, 11:34 AM   #2
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I think it might have had something to do with how technology is taking over our lives, and isn't always a good thing. Saruman had "a mind of metal and wheels," according to Treebeard, at least in the movie, but I am pretty sure that there was something like that in thee books.
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Old 07-04-2003, 03:28 PM   #3
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That's a good reply...but I there is something deeper, more than the obvious ones of friendship and loyalty, even deeper than the not so obvious one of technology taking over our lives (which I had never thought about before). I mean, why would he write an entire history without trying to say something (either consciously or sub-consciously)?

Am I the only who thinks this?
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Old 07-04-2003, 03:53 PM   #4
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Tolkien

How about something like 'Good things don't last in ME'? It seems like one of the overriding themes is how so many of the races and civilisations fell over time, either because of their evil or the evil of others. Maybe Tolkien was expounding on the innate evil in humanity? Just a stab in the darkness, feel free to disagree. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 07-04-2003, 06:45 PM   #5
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Quote:
How about something like 'Good things don't last in ME'? It seems like one of the overriding themes is how so many of the races and civilisations fell over time, either because of their evil or the evil of others. Maybe Tolkien was expounding on the innate evil in humanity? Just a stab in the darkness, feel free to disagree.
Peace
That's good. Maybe we could extend that and say that Tolkien thought that nothing good lasted in the world because of sin, etc. G

Thanks for your point of view. I like it.
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Old 07-04-2003, 07:12 PM   #6
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It's all about man and his will of becoming immortal. You can feel it inside yourselves...

[ July 04, 2003: Message edited by: Gorthol ]
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Old 07-04-2003, 07:15 PM   #7
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Tolkien

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It's all about man and his will of becoming immortal.
I'm a bit confused. Do you mean Man's dissatisfaction with his mortality and struggle to attain immortality? Or am I off the mark completely?
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Old 07-04-2003, 07:21 PM   #8
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1420!

I don't think there is one overriding theme. The reason Tolkien created Middle-earth was so that England would have its own mythology, so I don't think it was to tell a message. But when making ME he did put some messages in it. Like the ones mentioned about technology and religion. What Yavanna228 was saying is good, but I see it as not just because of evil, but also, and more importantly, because of time. Nothing can beat time. Time outlasts everything, and Tolkien knew this. He could not finish ME, just as Bilbo could not finish the Red Book of Westmarch. The elves could not withstand time. Yes they may be immortal, but time brings change, and they choose to leave their homes. Anyways, that's what I think.

Here and here are some other themes, and there are many many more.
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Old 07-04-2003, 07:29 PM   #9
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Tolkien

Yes, Willie, time. Time brings out the evil. It wasn't there at the get-go. Thanks for bringing that to the fore. Also, good links.
Another possible theme that is subtly woven especially into the Silmarillion is that, in the very end, no matter how bleak it looks good will triumph. And, in the Ainulindale, the fact that the will of Iluvatar will be worked out in ways inscrutible could be a very broad theme.
Also, how about 'history repeats itself'? I said this in another thread, but it seems that civilisations and races were continuously rising and falling.
Just a few extra thoughts.
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Old 07-04-2003, 07:37 PM   #10
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Quote:
I'm a bit confused. Do you mean Man's dissatisfaction with his mortality and struggle to attain immortality?
Yes, I do. Definitely I do. Can you feel it...... Can you!!!!!!!!????? It's THE ONE thing in the Universe that would turn our lives and all we know up side down..and it'd change everything forever.. Do you feel it??
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Old 07-04-2003, 07:42 PM   #11
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Tolkien

Uh, I suppose.
Yes, especially the Numenoreans were dissatisfied with mortality, living within sight distance of the Undying Lands. But I'm sure that other races had the same thoughts, because everyone, no matter how primitive, is afraid of death at some point in their lives, even though I suppose it was not always like that in ME.
Peace
*EDIT*- Aha! Found the quote! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
Quote:
And the Doom of Men, that they should depart, was at first a gift of Iluvatar. It became a grief to them only because coming under the shadow of Morgoth it seemed to them that they were surrounded by a great darkness, of which they were afraid; and some grew wilful and proud and would not yield, until life was reft from them.
[ July 04, 2003: Message edited by: Yavanna228 ]
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Old 07-04-2003, 08:17 PM   #12
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Silmaril

I always thought that the theme seemed more like the type where it shows that although 'evil' can never be fully evicted from our world, that it can get the crap kicked out of it by 'good', and that as long as there are some willing to fight for what is 'right', that everything will be as close to all right as you can get. But that's just what I thought. i also always figured that the reason Tolkien's work was so complicated was so that everyone would get something different out of reading it.
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Old 07-04-2003, 08:26 PM   #13
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Feanor: Not likely, but maybe.. I think it all ends up in the immortality "search", we want it now and Tolkien and the ppl's in his works wanted it all the same, until we find it we'll always be mere mortals, dying and wanishing from this world..

[ July 04, 2003: Message edited by: Gorthol ]
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Old 07-04-2003, 08:33 PM   #14
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Sting

Thanks for all the interesting replies you ahve all posted. It has been great fun seeing what people think. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

I think that Gorthol's view on man's search for immortality is absolutely right in a sene. I don't really know about the Numenoreans and all that because I haven't read the Silmarillion (it's on my book list), but the first example that came into my mind was the Spaniard's search for the Fountain of Life.

I knew that Tolkien had written LOTR so that England could have a mythology (but thanks for bringing that up anyway) but I had always thought that all mythologies had a message to tell...

The bit about time and history repeating itself was very interesting as well. All things physical will pass away, both good and evil, but in the end, it is good, Illuvatar (God) who will triumph. That is a very comforting thought.

Thanks again!!
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Old 07-04-2003, 09:14 PM   #15
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There are a number of themes that can be identified, in LotR and in the other works.

One is that pride leads to tragedy. Feanor, Maeglin, Ar-Pharazon, Turin, Saruman, Sauron, and Melkor (Morgoth) were all the victims of pride gone too far.

A second theme is the balance between progress and preservation. The elves are one extreme, preserving and "embalming" the past, living in their memories. Saruman is the other, destroying for the sake of a unnecessary progress. The hobbits and men represent a compromise, with some peoples in those races being more inclined to look forward and others interested in history.

There are a number of others, the desire for immortality as has been mentioned, the strength of the simple, and mercy as a tool for divine purpose being just a few of them.
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Old 07-05-2003, 02:58 AM   #16
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Yes, all of these were evident. I can add another. A main theme, that I've always thought of as the most important, was the presentation of the continuity, and of the completeness, of the world, throughout all the events that befall it. Illuvitar and the Music encompasses everything, and this cannot be defeated. So everything is working out as it should, the world is whole, and will continue.

The nobility of life is another; Tolkien also seems to say, through the many and varied peoples that populate his universe, that while many different forms of this exist in the world, all of them are valuable; that is the Two Kindreds, the variances within these Kindreds, as well as the Dwarves and others. Perhaps the much-talked about Catholicism of Tolkien is evident here, as a paralell with the 'human dignity' idea that the Church preaches.
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Old 07-07-2003, 09:35 AM   #17
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There are many themes that we can find in Tolkien's books. This has to do with the principle of applicability and the fact that his work encompasses so much that is of general interest to all of us. One of the themes that I followed when last reading LotR was the theme of "Hope and Hopelessness" - I presented it for discussion on that thread.

However, I would not say that any theme that we can find could be considered Tolkien's own main theme. Only he himself can tell us that, and he did, in his letters. His main theme is death and immortality. I will try to find a quote to back that reference up, or perhaps someone else knows exactly where it is...
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Old 07-07-2003, 10:59 AM   #18
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You will find many themes in Tolkien's works because it is a mythologyl; no one theme is above the others. Mythology is history in the eyes of those who have know other means of explaining it, and history is full of multiple themes. Look at the Silmarillion, the Akallebeth, and the LOTR as a somewhat complete pre-history of England through the guise of mythology. You will find references to a creation story, the coming of man and mortality (and man's associated fear of mortality); you will find a reference to many of man's falls from grace including the ever important flood story that is found throughout world mythologies (Tolkien even refers to it as Atlante: the downfallen, so very similar to Atlantis, and the faithful survive just like Noah).

OK! I am rambling. The jist of my post is that you won't find one all encompassing theme unless you consider the pre-histroy of civilisation a theme
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Old 07-07-2003, 11:56 AM   #19
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Sting

Thanks so much for the extra replies. I guess the Tolkien theme was discussed more than I thought even though I did use the search thingy (yeah, I figured out how to use that). But I was in a hurry...

Quote:
The jist of my post is that you won't find one all encompassing theme unless you consider the pre-histroy of civilisation a theme
Yes, I do consider pre-history as a "theme," maybe not in the usual sense of the word. (You know, according to the dictionary, I don't think theme is the correct word at all...maybe message. Oh, whatever. You know what I mean.) Anyway, pre-history (that's not a good word either) are foundations of our world today (both physically and spiritually), therefore it is very important. I guess I was just wondering if Tolkien had more in mind than just mythology, because it sure takes the mystery out of it when you consider his work as a mythology. Strictly speaking for LOTR, I think his "theme" is as so many have said, the destruction of evil. The Ring represented the supreme evil, and the elves and men could not just cast it into the sea because they had to think about their descendants. And evil will always be present, will always rear its ugly head, but we (no matter how small we are) must fight it with all our might, because if we don't, then the good is surrenduring to evil (and we all know that's not good).

From what I've heard about the Silmarillion, it is much the same. Sauron came in the guise of good, weasled his way into the counsels of men, and he destroyed them by feeding their pride, greed, etc. Maybe another them is that we must be humble lest we are manipulated by the evil one...do you understand?

I guess Tolkien is saying there will always be a Lucifer, there will always be evil, there will always be death and bloodshed, there will always be lies, there will always be power hungry people like Saruman, but there also will be people who are good (the hobbits), people who will stand up and fight (Gondor and the Hobbits to an extent), and from the first chapter that I read from the Silmarillion, God is always in control.

Imladris.

P.S What is the Akallebeth? I've heard of the Silmarillion and the Unfinished Tales, but what is that? I bet this isn't the right forum either, but since it was just mentioned...
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Old 07-07-2003, 12:08 PM   #20
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Quote:
Maybe another them is that we must be humble lest we are manipulated by the evil one...do you understand?
Perfectly so, but I am not sure I agree with you. I haven't read the Silmarillion cover-to-cover in awhile (most of my Sil reading has lately been bits and pieces for fanfic writing), but if my memeory serves me correctly, which is may very well not, some of those who Melkor/Morgoth and (later) Sauron corrupted did not seem overly prideful or ambitious people to begin with. Rather, these sides of them were brought to the surface and strengthened and, in most cases, ultimately became their downfall.

Quote:
What is the Akallebeth? I've heard of the Silmarillion and the Unfinished Tales, but what is that? I bet this isn't the right forum either, but since it was just mentioned...
The Akallebeth is a section (I think it is the last one) within the Silmarillion detailing the downfall of Numenor. It's one of my personal favorite parts within the Silmarillion. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 07-07-2003, 12:13 PM   #21
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The Akallebeth is the story of the downfall of Numneor (Atlante). It is essentially Tolkiens Flood myth, which ties his mythology in with the other major mythologies around the world. It can be found after the Quenta Silmarillion.

I like to view mythologies in a certain way. Mythologies weren't specifically designed to teach a lesson (fables would do this, though). Mythologies are attempts by man to explain history through the eyes of hero, typically. These histories also detail explanations of diasters throughout history and how man has associated with his hubris. Ultimately, we as humans know we are not perfect; sometimes we seek to connect our history with our faults and relate these faults to how our creator/creators (given your religious background) deal with us in the grand scheme. As noted in the Ainulande (sp?), all of the music of life is interwoven, evil and good; immortallity and mortallity, etc. One can not change the music, only Illuvatar knows the finale. Tolkien's books are the written histories of Illuvatar's music, and if you consider Tolkiens' works as the mythos of England, Illuvatar's music is still playing.
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Old 07-08-2003, 03:43 AM   #22
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Sting

Well, I wouldn't go into it particularly like that. It is a massive story. It encompasses everything, and so there are so many themes that you have to follow them all. It is a fantastic fabricated universe, made as a background to our own for the purposes of fascination. Not really just a mytho for Britain, but for the World, in a sort of British way I suppose.

Estelyn, there is a main theme. Illuvitar seems to be the beginning and the end of things, that covers everything. It is eevrything. Then there are the two lower tiers of the Valar and the great deeds of the world, and finally, the deeds in detail, the individuals.
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Old 07-08-2003, 07:06 AM   #23
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Silmaril

I realize that there are many different opinions on this topic; however, for the record, I think it is important to know what Tolkien himself said about the theme of his story. Here are several quotes from his Letters (numbers 186, 203, 208, and 211):
Quote:
I do not think that even Power or Domination is the real centre of my story. ... The real theme for me is about something much more permanent and difficult: Death and Immortality; the mystery of the love of the world in the hearts of a race 'doomed' to leave and seemingly lose it; the anguish in the hearts of a race 'doomed' not to leave it, until its whole evil-aroused story is complete.
Quote:
...it is about Death and the desire for deathlessness.
Quote:
It is only in reading the work myself (with criticisms in mind) that I become aware of the dominance of the theme of Death. (Not that there is any original 'message' in that: most of human art and thought is similarly preoccupied.)
Quote:
I might say that if the tale is 'about' anything (other than itself), it is not as seems widely supposed about 'power'. Power-seeking is only the motive-power that sets events going, and is relatively unimportant, I think. It is mainly concerned with Death, and Immortality; and the 'escapes': serial longevity, and hoarding memory.
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Old 07-08-2003, 09:52 AM   #24
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In The Lord of the Rings the conflict is not basically about 'freedom', though that is naturally involved. It is about God, and His sole right to divine honour.
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Old 07-08-2003, 01:18 PM   #25
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Silmaril

It was very interesting to read all your posts! I think Gwaihir summed it up pretty well in his last post.
Here is another quote that I found in one of Tolkien's letters (#131) which impressed me

Quote:
A moral of the whole (After the primary symbolism of the Ring, as the will to mere power, seeking to make itself objective by physical force and mechanism, and so also inevitably by lies) is the obvious one that without the high and noble the simple and vulgar is utterly mean; and without the simple and ordinary the noble and herioc is meaningless."
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