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Old 07-10-2007, 02:03 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
Sting Honey, I Forgot to Kill the Dragon

What happens when fairy-tale conventions are turned upside-down? When unexpected characters do unexpected things? Well, that's often what parodies showcase - and it's rather well-known here on the Downs that I'm a parody fan (and occasional perpetrator).

Not only are there numerous parodies of Tolkien's works in print and on the net, he himself also wrote one! Farmer Giles of Ham is a mock-heroic parody of the knightly variety of fairy-tales, and very humorous indeed. One of the most striking turns is that the dragon is not killed, and actually becomes the hero's ally in the course of the story. Sound familiar to movie fans? Of course - we've seen it in Shrek! There too the dragon is not killed and becomes instrumental in defeating the true foe in the end. (Those who remember my long-time Fiona avatar won't be surprised that I know that particular animated movie well...)

I've prepared a light-hearted lecture comparing the two parody tales for the German Tolkien Society's annual meeting this coming weekend. It's too long to reproduce here in its entirety, but I would like to share a few interesting points with you and hope that you will add your thoughts to the soup cauldron of my notes!

What is the reason for keeping the dragons alive? In both cases, the job can be done without killing, so there is no bloodshed without necessity. A battle of wits, not of violence, is fought.

In both stories, the hero is not the king or his knights, as could be expected, but a lowly farmer in one case, and the creature, an ogre, who is normally considered the foe in the other. Both do not have the outward appearance of a hero, yet their inner worth is revealed through their actions.

In both places, the old tales and songs have lost their significance - to the detriment of the court. Fairy tale creatures are banned in Shrek, and only the lowly peasants and villagers remember the old lays in Giles. I'm reminded of Celeborn's words:
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Do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know.
Both heroes have a speaking animal as sidekick - the dog Garm and the doglike Donkey.

In both stories, the persons who are responsible for solving the problem and defending the land against danger shrink back from their duty and let others take risks for them. Farquaad:
Quote:
Some of you may die, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.
The tournament in Giles, which originally had the purpose of preparing the knights for serious threats, takes priority over the actual danger. Matters of precedence and etiquette have become more important than the substance which they formerly represented.

In Farquaad's country, outward appearances - tall towering buildings - compensate for lack of personal substance.

Both heroes use unorthodox methods to win their battles, yet they get the job done.

Both stories end with the defeat of the inefficient ruler; their sloth and greed are punished.

Both heroes are rewarded for their courage and wits: Giles with the Kingdom, Shrek with Princess Fiona.


That's just a start; there's much more to be discovered, about the female role in the stories, and about the many additional characters, but this post is definitely long enough to get the wheels of a discussion turning. I look forward to your thoughts!
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Last edited by Estelyn Telcontar; 07-10-2007 at 02:06 AM.
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Old 07-10-2007, 12:09 PM   #2
Bęthberry
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Thanks for this sneak peak of your lecture, Esty. Not all of us can attend this "Thing".

Alas there is one great difference between Shrek and Farmer Giles--of the latter we are denied a full sequel. A great pity that Tolkien's children grew up so he couldn't 'recapture the spirit of the original inspiration', as Scull and Hammond suggest.

It is interesting to note--although this has nothing to do with Shrek--that Tolkien lifted the name Caudimordax, Tailbiter, from another academic parody. E. R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros. Eddison's book is itself set in an invented world, in Jacobean times (rather than a vaguely Middle Age) and written in what has been called "Shakespearean prose." For a comparison, see here. How completely foreign from today's world is that academic life they lived.

Also, I am certain my kids have spoken of a children's fantasy work using the name Tailbiter which is itself a parody of Tolkien, but I can find no online references nor the book. (It is, I've been told, a tale of a cat!) It is probably stashed away secretly somewhere to lead a certain Catberry on a merry chase!

Good luck with the presentation!
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Old 07-11-2007, 10:49 AM   #3
Hilde Bracegirdle
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Yes, thanks for bringing the fun topic up! Unfortunately, it has been roughly 30 years since I read the book, so I don't feel I could contibute in a meaningful way, but I will say that the color green seems to be favored by both stories. It is featured in the cover art for the book, and shows up in the complexion of the movie's hero and later heroine.
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Old 07-11-2007, 01:18 PM   #4
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Beth--I'm not sure I would call The Worm Ouroboros a parody, but that is quite useful to note.

Also...now that I think of it (and I'm sure this makes it into your speech), another thing they both have in common is that all they want to do is to be left alone. Not only do they both lack the outward appearance of a hero, but they don't even want to be a hero, or looked up to, or anything but left alone as small landowners. (Which, I suppose, differentiates them from say Frodo or Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter, all of whom initially seem externally to be insignificant but dream of distant lands and great adventures.)

Hmm...this really *has* gotten me thinking. I may have to go back and reread Giles again. Thanks for the post!
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Old 07-14-2007, 08:12 AM   #5
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Shrek has something good that (horrors!) Giles does not, at least to my recollection. There is what I would call a 'Brothers Grimm-like' metamorphosis in the female lead. (Which reminds me of Ladyhawk.) Tolkien doesn't indulge in metamorphosis in Giles. It adds depth to Shrek such that Fiona must choose her destiny, whether to follow the proud but empty traditions of Farquaad's court, or choose the rich but humble life (one would expect) of ogreness. And it requires an inner growth in Shrek himself. There is inner growth in Giles too, but it has to do with simple minded self-interest being overcome by courage and justice for the many.

I'm not sure what this adds to the discussion, but it's what occurred to me.
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Old 07-16-2007, 06:49 AM   #6
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
Thanks for your replies! Bb, that's an interesting reference on Tailbiter! Hilde, you noticed a colour connection that I hadn't seen - great! CR, yes - both do not seek adventure; it is more or less forced upon them, and they do go back to a quiet life (though Giles becomes king, one doesn't get the impression that he changes much in doing so). Elempi, you add an aspect that I had in my lecture but didn't mention here - the role of the woman at the hero's side. Let me pass on what I had there:

As I interpret the scene, Fiona did not have the choice of whether or not to be 100% ogress; apparently, that was her true nature, to her own surprise and dismay at first. But that is a similarity to Queen Agatha - both have considerable girth! Psychologically, that means that they take up space, fill out a big role. It also means that unlike other fairy story heroines, they do not derive their worth from their fragile loveliness, and their role is not passive! Both are very active, and that's definitely part of Fiona's personal development. Agatha too plays a big part in her husband's rule - managing the finances. And we know that whoever rules the money rules the world!

I'll look through my notes for more thoughts if there's interest - and I look forward to more comments.
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Old 07-20-2007, 01:33 PM   #7
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I'm only discovering this fun topic now! I'd never have thought myself of comparing "Shrek" to "Farmer Giles" - but I like your idea very much. Thanks for posting!
And I hope you got a lot of applause for your lecture!
(I want to go and see Shrek III soon)
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Old 07-29-2007, 10:31 PM   #8
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I haven't read Giles in awhile and only a couple of times but what popped in my mind -aren't both Garm and Donkey being the sidekicks both scaredycats?
Usually sidekicks come along because they wish to be part of the adventure seeing themselves as brave. Donkey first attached himself to Shrek because he scared Farquaad's army away... I can't remember why Garm went with Giles. Or did he? I do remember Garm being a weeny.
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Old 07-30-2007, 02:43 AM   #9
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
Garm warned Giles of the danger - but when it came down to going with him, he slunk away if he had the chance. When Garm did accompany Giles, it was only because he was ordered to do so. I think that's why Tolkien claimed in the earlier version of the story that the mare, who stood her ground in the face of the dragon, was the true hero of the story.

Good point, Holby! If there is anything to be learned from the sidekicks, perhaps it's that they must be friends to the heroes, not necessarily heroic themselves.

Guinevere, Shrek the Third is fun to see, even if it no longer has the charm of novelty that the first movie (perhaps the second too) had. And yes, I got a good deal of positive reaction to my lecture, so it was worth the effort!
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Old 07-30-2007, 09:45 AM   #10
littlemanpoet
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So Tolkien (of course) could write quite the ironic character when he wished to. We see it in Farmer Giles. Now I want to think about if there are any in other of his writings.
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Old 07-30-2007, 04:27 PM   #11
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Of course, Garm in Norse mythology is the name of the hound who guarded the realm of Hel (the Underworld), & slays Tyr, the one-handed god, at Ragnarok. Surely this is an ironic 'echo' of the conflict between Beren & Carcharoth. The original Garm is a terrifying, fearless monster, while Giles' dog is a cowardly cur. Giles as a personal name comes from the latin Aegidius, (from aegis)
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"protection," 1793, from L. ægis, from Gk. Aigis, the shield of Zeus, said by Herodotus to be related to aix (gen. aigos) "goat," from PIE *aig- "goat" (cf. Skt. ajah, Lith. ozys "he-goat"), as the shield was of goatskin. Athene's aigis was a short goat-skin cloak, covered with scales, set with a gorgon's head, and fringed with snakes.
So Giles is the 'shield' of his people.

I note in passing that 'Farmer Giles' is rhyming slang for piles, which may explain his bad temper & desire to avoid fighting......
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Old 05-15-2021, 03:51 AM   #12
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
...bumping up to contribute to the Farmer Giles discussion.
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Old 05-15-2021, 07:56 AM   #13
William Cloud Hicklin
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St Giles is the patron saint of the physically disabled- although I'm not sure I see a connection there
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