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Old 04-17-2021, 07:07 PM   #1
Formendacil
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Silmaril Protecting One's Self

Inziladun and I cross-posted in the Learning about this Website thread and we happened to respond to Pitchwife with two very similar thoughts:

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Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
As I get older, I find myself treasuring Tolkien's works all the more, and becoming rather protective. I am fearful of not heeding Gandalf's advice to Saruman, about not breaking something to discover its workings. I really have no interest now in how the books were constructed. I don't care about real or imagined symbolism. I know what I feel when I read of Tuor seeing the Great Sea for the first time, and spreading his arms as if to embrace it; or picturing Galadriel standing with Frodo in front of her Mirror, struggling with her own longing and temptation to use the Ring.
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This is a good distinction and thinking about it, I think I'm almost the complete opposite: I love to talk lore--the worldbuilding and the factoids and the gap-filling, but I have always been protective of things around literary worth and meaning where Middle-earth is concerned, but this topic has been on my mind since I re-encountered the What Breaks the Enchantment thread while looking for a link to the great Canonicity thread, and setting aside the self-analysis of why I resist talking about the MEANING of Tolkien's literature (to me or anyone else), I think it is very much accurate to distinguish between the two.
So, here's a thread about that.

Now, threads evolve, so I can't say where this is going to go, but after reading through a couple pages of the What Breaks the Enchantment thread, I know sort of what I'm not exactly looking to talk about: this isn't thread isn't aiming to be about OUGHT; it's about IS.

In other words, I think the big back-and-forth about that thread ended up boiling down to how a reader responded to Tolkien and, since it was about where the enchantment (the willing suspension of disbelief) failed, it devolved into a question of whether it was the author or the reader's fault it had failed. And, don't get me wrong--it's a good thread and I kind of want to revisit some aspects of it, once I get through to the end of rereading it, but spurred on by the "protective coincidence," I want to look at something similar, it a bit reversed.

While the specifics may and probably do differ, Inziladun and I each seem to mean by "protective" that Tolkien's works have become dear to us: it is something we seek to protect; something--at least I would say--that is a part of who we are. (A parallel could no doubt be made to how the Ringbearers feel about the Ring, but hopefully this lacks the downsides.)

In my own case, I remember that a visceral part of my dislike for the movies and part of my hesitancy at joining any sort of fan community in the days before I opened up to the Barrow-downs, was that it impinged on and seemed to threaten what Middle-earth meant to me. It is at once home and family and part of the furniture of my mind. Thinking of the "what breaks the enchantment?" question is hard because, well, I can't see anything in Middle-earth objectively.

Obviously, I overcame the hesitancy about joining the 'Downs and I'll even say that the PJ movies didn't end up ruining anything and might even not be bad movies, but that core impulse beneath of fearing to expose Middle-earth to too much scrutiny because it would be exposing me to scrutiny hasn't necessarily gone away. Arguably, I've just become better at deflecting it.

An example of this in the wild--as opposed to in my head--would be about a year ago, when there were several memes taking Gandalf's words "...so do all who live to see such times, yet it is not for them to decide... etc." popping up across Facebook and it was not just a case of applicability, of "these words in this book seem to apply to this situation," but a case of "these words are familiar from these books and because they are a strength for those characters, they are a strength for [INSERT READER HERE]."

This isn't a unique issue to Tolkien. There's a lot be said, for example, about the Star Wars fans who were so torn over The Last Jedi being torn because the new interpretation of the movies clashed in some way with the internalised vision of the Star Wars timeline that had become a part of their selves in years before. But I do think Tolkien has inspired a greater amount of this sort of protectionism because his work is as good as it is: there are fewer reasons NOT to imbibe it into one's self if it is the sort of thing you like.

I don't know if all that counts as a topic-starter or if it's more of a single-post statement, but where better to talk about the conflation myself and Middle-earth than on the 'Downs?
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Old 04-17-2021, 08:21 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
Obviously, I overcame the hesitancy about joining the 'Downs and I'll even say that the PJ movies didn't end up ruining anything and might even not be bad movies, but that core impulse beneath of fearing to expose Middle-earth to too much scrutiny because it would be exposing me to scrutiny hasn't necessarily gone away. Arguably, I've just become better at deflecting it.
This is interesting and thinking about it, I would say I'm the complete opposite, because of an experience I actually had today!

So I don't coach quiz teams anymore but sometimes when I have a Saturday free I will help read for tournaments and matches. When the season starts winding down I always try to help at the TRASH tournament, because it's fun and shenanigans and all pop culture questions. Also, guaranteed to be a few Tolkien-related or movie questions in there.

During academic events, the players have to use their school name and real names, but during TRASH events, they make up whatever aliases and team names they want. Team "A Terrible Crossover" had

Player 1: Spongebob
Player 2: George Costanza
Player 3: Rimuru (have no idea what that's from)
Player 4: Dernhelm

And here I am on Google meet, eyes lit up, grinning like a nutcase, because I hear "Who is this person? He's odd and like smiling from ear to ear" Then a "shhh, we're not on mute."

I jump in explaining: "No, it's quite alright. I am odd and I don't care because I'm just super happy. Whoever has the alias Dernhelm has made my day. I don't care what else happens the rest of the day, that is a wonderful Lord of the Rings shout out. You have made me a happy camper, because I don't think Eowyn is ever called Dernhelm in the movies, which means people are still reading the books. I'm grinning like a fool because I'm resisting the temptation to shout Death!"
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Old 04-18-2021, 04:55 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Form
In my own case, I remember that a visceral part of my dislike for the movies and part of my hesitancy at joining any sort of fan community in the days before I opened up to the Barrow-downs, was that it impinged on and seemed to threaten what Middle-earth meant to me. It is at once home and family and part of the furniture of my mind. Thinking of the "what breaks the enchantment?" question is hard because, well, I can't see anything in Middle-earth objectively.

Obviously, I overcame the hesitancy about joining the 'Downs and I'll even say that the PJ movies didn't end up ruining anything and might even not be bad movies, but that core impulse beneath of fearing to expose Middle-earth to too much scrutiny because it would be exposing me to scrutiny hasn't necessarily gone away. Arguably, I've just become better at deflecting it.
I like your introduction to this thread in general, but especially this part sounded very familiar. I'm very much the same - my first instinct is always to be protective, sometimes even possessive, of the stories that matter to me. I was in school when the PJ movies came out, and still remember how uncomfortable I felt watching younger kids fencing with sticks and playing Aragorn. It was like something private had suddenly been made public. I think I still have that same instinct, even if I've (hopefully) grown up a little since then. For instance, I'd still never call myself a "fan" of anything, and the idea of declaring to belong to a "fandom" sounds entirely too public and partisan to me. In a way, I've made my peace with being quite an introverted and private person; even in this culture where you're supposed to share everything, it really is okay not to.

That said, I do love Boro's example too. At the risk of sounding cheesy, the Downs has been a great lesson for me in that other people sharing the same interests is not a threat, but a chance to develop incredible friendships.
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Old 04-18-2021, 05:48 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by A Little Green View Post
For instance, I'd still never call myself a "fan" of anything, and the idea of declaring to belong to a "fandom" sounds entirely too public and partisan to me. In a way, I've made my peace with being quite an introverted and private person; even in this culture where you're supposed to share everything, it really is okay not to.
I think there are people who would laugh at the idea that I am a Tolkien fan introvert who doesn't want to share things, since I invariably get known by about three facts anywhere I go: I'm the Catholic guy, I'm the Lord of the Rings guy, and I'm the LEGO guy--but this, yes!

Mind you, I can't really say that Middle-earth have ever been an ENTIRELY private preserve of enjoyment: I indoctrinated my next-oldest brother into the books and as we are the oldest siblings in a large family, there's a whole batch of demi-Formendacils who have always had an up-close sharing in this.

And I think you hit the nail on the head saying you don't like calling yourself a "fan." I recognise that impulse immediately, but I don't think I've ever had an articulation for why, but the connection here between "being a fan" and "being public" feels exactly right.

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That said, I do love Boro's example too. At the risk of sounding cheesy, the Downs has been a great lesson for me in that other people sharing the same interests is not a threat, but a chance to develop incredible friendships.
This is very true, and Boro's example is an excellent counterpoint: the Tolkien extrovert to our Tolkien introverts (and a reminder, maybe, that these things never come unalloyed): when I encounter mentions of Middle-earth in "the wild," I am invariably excited. That said, my first instinct on having The Lord of the Rings brought up is to dissemble and only casually reveal how much I know/love those books, but that might be a case of some budding maturity, since people generally aren't interested in me establishing my Tolkien knowledge bona fides as though everyone I met needed to discover I am the The Most Knowledgable One™.

But it's also because you don't bare your soul to complete strangers. And the Downs is both an example and a counter-example here, because, well, you AREN'T all complete strangers (and there is still a pseudo-anonymity against those of you (and the Inktomi bots) who are).
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Old 04-18-2021, 01:52 PM   #5
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Is this off-topic?

I do very little in that respect.

No matter how infuriating they could be, I also feel very blessed having seen the PJ Movies. I mean there are so much good stuff (and as I have said elsewhere) such good casting choices. The awesomeness of Galadriel's opening monologue has come at a price though...

I have a very hard time remembering how I used to visual Middle-earth and it's inhabitants. Every now and then I can recall a much more aged, almost wizard like, Théoden, but most other things seem lost to me.

I guess this is the reason I am very hesitant to watch adaptation of bellowed books. Obviously I almost always give in and watch the damn thing...
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Old 04-18-2021, 02:09 PM   #6
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For instance, I'd still never call myself a "fan" of anything, and the idea of declaring to belong to a "fandom" sounds entirely too public and partisan to me.
-and-

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Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
And I think you hit the nail on the head saying you don't like calling yourself a "fan." I recognise that impulse immediately, but I don't think I've ever had an articulation for why, but the connection here between "being a fan" and "being public" feels exactly right.
The word "fan" given the wide variety of things and contexts that is can be used for to me has a connotation of trivializing my interest in Tolkien (or indeed anything else).

There is also something else there that I am struggling to articulate. The word "fan" kind of hits with a note of frivolous immaturity or thoughtlessness in a way.

Of course, a sure sign of immaturity is worrying too much about it...so you can't win for losing.

I've never really thought to articulate it in this manner, but if somebody asked me to describe my attitude toward Tolkien's work, I would probably answer with a nebulous "I'm very interested in Tolkien's work." A bit vague in a way, but I think that would be the best description.
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Old 04-18-2021, 05:02 PM   #7
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With regard to being a fan of something I’d like to paraphrase a tiny bit of an article I just read. It’s behind a Patreon Paywall so I won’t post the whole thing out of respect to their work. If you want the rest look up Jeff May on patreon.

Jeff’s post is directed towards Comics fans specifically and is all about how to be a better fan.*

Quote:
Do you read comics?” question.

*It usually goes one of the following ways:
“Yes, I read comics and I wish to discuss those comics with you right now and possibly in the future.” Hell yeah, new best friend!

* “No, I do not read comics, but I would like to start” with a sense of piqued curiosity.

*”No, I do not read comics” with a sense of slight shame at being called out for being some kind of nerdy imposter.

* “No, I do not read comics, ew, I am being incredibly judgy toward a stranger” with a surprising sense of derision at the idea that they would ever waste their money on something like a comic book.
So I think To put this in Tolkien Context:

Those who’ve read the books, possibly seen the movies but enjoy discussing it.

Those who’ve seen the movies and want to learn more from the books.

Those who’ve seen the movies and feel put down for not reading the books yet.

And folks that have watched the movies but think reading is too nerdy.


So while yes those in the fourth group exist and are the types of fans I feel are being talked about when talking about being protective I do think the other two types of film fans need to be considered.

I honestly don’t remember if I read the books first or joined the Downs first. I do know I saw the Fellowship first at the very least. I even remember me first introduction to LoTR it was the trailer. When Gandalf says “It wants to be Found” I was hooked, heck I just got a slight chill thinking about that line.

The point is yes there was an influx of new members from the films myself included. And while I know I’ve seen talk of “Legolas Fangirls” and strong opinions on the films I Do think this community was welcoming to those that were willing to learn about this new world opened to them.

I don’t think fans should be Protectors of their passions rather they should be Ambassadors for it.

*Jeff May’s Original Post
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Old 04-18-2021, 05:41 PM   #8
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I don’t think fans should be Protectors of their passions rather they should be Ambassadors for it.
Talking of Protectors touches on the whole concept of fandom gatekeeping and that is... yeah, that kind of Protectionism is not good or healthy for any fandom. I think it's to the credit of the Downs as a community that although it predated the Movies and has always skewed Book-centric, it didn't retreat into a complete "ew, Movie fans" disdain, but held to its core values. One need only look at some of the acrimony brought on in the Comic Book or Star Wars fandoms by excessive gatekeeping.

Ironically, since gatekeeping often takes the form of trying to weed out the unworthy by appealing to the amount of knowledge one has ("oh yeah? Well, if you're a real fan, tell me who..."), I think the amount of sheer lore around Tolkien as well as its many shades of authoritative status (published, posthumous, early drafts, late work, footnotes, wastepaper bing, only published in Parma Eldalambion...) makes it a lot harder to use knowledge as a pure source of gatekeeping. Certainly, I don't associate this community with that kind of gatekeeping--we can be testy about the Movies, but I think the harshest feelings have been reserved for things like Priya Seth's disciples: all the lore and none of the comprehension.

All that being said, while I quite agree that Protectionism as Gatekeeping is bad, that doesn't necessarily mean that Privacy is bad. Just as it's possible for the near-pacifism of the Shire to be allied morally with the stalwart and military "Tower of the Guard," so too can outgoing "oh man, you love this stuff too!"-ism be allied with what I mean when I say "a sense of protectiveness."

Both are manifestations of love. It would easy enough to say one is the extroverted mode and one is the introverted mode--so I will say it. But it's also true that there are different levels of engagement. I think if one encountered someone, ala Boro's Dernhelm, in the wild, the excitement would be genuine, but it might still be surface-level compared to the depths of one's feeling for the subject. We expose our tender underbellies when we show off what we love, and even if, like Smaug, we love our bejewelled underbellies, we're still unlikely to expose them completely and openly to admiration unless we truly trust and/or know the other party.

Which is, I think, where those of us tending towards the introverted mode have found the Downs a home: it is easier to go beyond the surface-level fandom toward the "protected" feelings because this is a community that is known and trusted, but because it's technically public and because other members shade from "my wife" to "my inner Internet circle" to "friends of friends" to "usernames," it's still not QUITE all the way toward full exposure.
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Old 04-18-2021, 06:32 PM   #9
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So I think To put this in Tolkien Context:

Those who’ve read the books, possibly seen the movies but enjoy discussing it.

Those who’ve seen the movies and want to learn more from the books.

Those who’ve seen the movies and feel put down for not reading the books yet.

And folks that have watched the movies but think reading is too nerdy.

...

I don’t think fans should be Protectors of their passions rather they should be Ambassadors for it.
Morsul, I wish I could rep you for this post, it is so well said. Apparently I've repped you too recently though, however impossible that seems.

Simultaneously though, I also relate very much to what Form and Greenie have said about Privacy, and exposing something that's very dear to you. I can easily call myself a fan of other "fandom-generating productions": Doctor Who, Game of Thrones (until it's disaster of an ending at least), Star Wars. I would call myself a fan of other authors, like Jane Austen or Orson Scott Card. But though my love for Tolkien has been much longer and much stronger than the rest, I somehow hesitate to call myself a fan in that regard. Reflecting on it, I think the answer is two-fold. Firstly, for better or worse, LOTR fans did become intertwined with the PJ movies, and that might not be an association I wanted to support, albeit subconsciously. The second part though is that if I am a "fan" of things like Star Wars, surely that word is simply inadequate to describe my relationship with Tolkien's works, with the Downs, with all Tolkien-associated ties I've made. I appreciate that there are much more "hard-core" fans than myself in those other fandoms, I am a relatively superficial skimmer, but I really do get squeaky-happy whenever I see a reference to them - doubly so if it's a crossover reference. But Tolkien means so much more. I'm not just a fan of his work, it's been a part of my life. The fact is, though I've been on otherwise themed forums before, and I might have some non-LOTR figurines cluttering my bedside table, none of that comes close to the relationship I have with Tolkien and other Tolkien lovers (thank you, Downs!). Calling myself a mere "fan" seems to cheapen that, bring it down to the level of creative memes and figurines.

And I also have that element of privacy in that I won't display my Tolkien devotion in the way I do to the rest. Those I would proudly wear on a T-shirt, whereas LOTR I would think very hard about before displaying. And I think the reasons for that are the same - wanting to not create a false association of what I love, and deeming it too precious to expose. But I'm starting to come around on that slightly, I think. I recently found a box of LOTR figurines I used to play with as a kid, and I thought I'd put them up right next to my mini-Tardis. If I have to justify or explain my position to others, so be it. Why shouldn't I have them up, even if I am not such a fan of the movies? In my games they had adventures and hunted Shelob, they are as much a part of my LOTR life experience as the books were at that age. And I'm warming up towards the movies too in that way: sure, I dislike a lot of what goes on there, but they played their own role in my relationship with Tolkien and it wasn't necessarily a bad one.

It's funny, I never really thought of this, at least not consciously put it into words. What it means to be a "fan". The protectiveness against both too much and too little flexibility. It's interesting to see how much shared feeling there is, even though no one quite agrees on the details of when and why the feeling is applied. Thank you Formy for an excellent thread!
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Old 04-18-2021, 07:02 PM   #10
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I certainly don’t advocate for shouting from the rooftops, as much fun as that may be. I simply mean inviting those that find the group on their own. Tolkien has always felt more reserved than Star Wars and such. There are collectibles of course but the Merch side of Tolkien never really manifested. Fantasy seems to have not made that same leap like SciFi.

There does seem to be a certain stigma to fantasy in general and Tolkien is THE go to touchstone for most, so that definitely is part of it. So why? Why is Fantasy stigmatized? Damned if I know. Perhaps because we tell kids fairy tales and therefore any story that has a wizard is “for kids”. A comparison would be animation. People think Cartoon=Kids.
Obviously Animation is simply a medium, and Fantasy is just a genre with plenty of room to breathe.

I realize some of you have said you’ve become more private about it as you’ve gotten older, but I’ll pose this question, not as an argument, but out of curiosity. Do you feel Game of Thrones had any effect positive or negative on your stance?

My thought, barely formed as it is, GoT could go two ways if it did have an effect at all.

1. To show people Fantasy can be for adults, we know Amazon plans its adaptation to air more on this side. This making the stigma less because now it’s not just “kids’ stuff”

Or

2. To make fantasy more stigmatized because now instead of kids’ stuff fantasy is overcorrected to just be Bewbs with dragons tossed in.

I guess my overarching question do you protect yourselves from people knowing you like LoTR or from liking Fantasy in general.

Edit: PS G55 you reped my Boots post

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Old 04-19-2021, 06:37 PM   #11
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I realize some of you have said you’ve become more private about it as you’ve gotten older, but I’ll pose this question, not as an argument, but out of curiosity. Do you feel Game of Thrones had any effect positive or negative on your stance?

....

I guess my overarching question do you protect yourselves from people knowing you like LoTR or from liking Fantasy in general.
Game of Thrones is enough outside my sphere of interest, as either book or show, that I really shouldn't say it has had any effect on how I feel about Tolkien. But you also asked about fantasy in general...

And Game of Thrones was the very least the nail in the coffin of me calling myself a "fantasy" fan. As a teenager, I would have said I was a fantasy reader--obviously, Tolkien was the driver of that, but he wasn't alone: I chased all sorts of authors off the library bookshelves in the hopes of recapturing that thrill. Of course, nothing ever really measured up, but I enjoyed enough things in different ways that I still thought of myself as a fantasy reader generally.

I don't really think that way anymore, and my attempt to make it through A Song of Ice and Fire in 2012 basically ended it. I burned through two and a half books in about a week, and the strongest emotional response was somehow exactly halfway between the enchantment high l was chasing and being completely rubbed the wrong way. In other words, Martin soared high enough on the exact register I was looking for, but did all the wrong things and two things sort of clicked:

1. (Which, really, I already knew but could never quite admit) There is no other Tolkien and if you look for "fantasy" when what you really mean is "Tolkien," then you'll ALWAYS be disappointed.

2. I understood better than I ever had what Tolkien and Lewis meant when they made their not-entirely-successful deal: "no one's writing what we want to read so we'll have to write it ourselves."

All of which is not to say that I haven't read any other fantasy since, but when I have it's like watching Star Wars: I enjoy it, but I enjoy it (or don't) on its own terms, rather than chasing Tolkien.

And I probably would say that the cultural impact of the HBO Game of Thrones has made me a bit more reticient to reveal I'm a Tolkienist, if it's had any effect at all, since it has sucked up enough cultural oxygen that people, when they think of fantasy tend to foreground that in the zeitgeist, and it just... isn't... part of my experience. I don't bear GoT any ill will, but when the other person's reference point is excitement over that show and they're trying to get to book-Tolkien me, it's a giant case of conflated terms and it's just easier to avoid it.
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Old 04-19-2021, 07:40 PM   #12
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Interesting thread. A lot of different things to discuss here. I prefer to not be disjointed, so I'll try and focus on one subject; the thread as titled.

Growing up, I knew virtually no one who really read Tolkien. Yes, the Hobbit was read by a fourth grade class (not mine), but I do not recall it ever mentioned after that. So when I began to really devour LoTR over and over again, "to protect myself" from ridicule I did not speak about it. Easy enough, since I knew no one else who was interested.

By the time I got to college, I sometimes would meet a somewhat kindred spirit, but generally, discussion or analysis did not take place. Perhaps, the others were also "protecting themselves." After all, I recall seeing the Bakshi movie in the theater. Several rows back in the not very crowded cinema was a long-haired, ill-groomed person sitting alone eating popcorn and audibly saying "gollum" over and over again. Can't be like that... Must protect myself...

So it was not until I found that the internet could be used for something other than research or the news, that I began to let down the mask and participate in on line forums and discussions, primarily here. But only while hiding behind a screen name. One must protect one's self...
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Old 04-20-2021, 02:14 PM   #13
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There is no other Tolkien and if you look for "fantasy" when what you really mean is "Tolkien," then you'll ALWAYS be disappointed.
Ironically, it's just this hunger for "something like Tolkien" or "more like Tolkien" which created the market for what the Encyclopedia of Fantasy calls genre fantasy: a genre of fiction using external trappings and storytelling templates derived from Tolkien, but lacking the spirit, scope and imaginative power of his work:

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In short, GF is not at heart fantasy at all, but a comforting revisitation of cosy venues, creating an effect that is almost anti-fantasy. An allied point is that GFs cater in large part for unimaginative readers who, through the reading of a GF, can feel themselves to be, as it were, vicariously imaginative. This goes exactly counter to the purpose of the full fantasy, which is to release or even to catapult the reader into new areas of the imagination.
(If you think this is too uncharitable a view, go read the whole article, it's actually quite balanced.)

In other words, "something like Tolkien" may perhaps be more readily found in works that don't outwardly resemble Tolkien's at all.

I think it's useful to distinguish, following Clute & Grant in the EoF, between fantasy as a genre of fiction (generally set in a faux-medieval or otherwise pre-modern secondary world, populated by [some variation of] elves, dwarves, dragons, wizards, and often including a conflict of good vs evil, order vs chaos, or the like) and fantasy as a mode of fiction, which can be anything dealing with creatures, concepts or other elements not found in contemporary consensus reality to startle, amaze, delight or disturb the reader. These days I wouldn't call myself (or think of myself as) a fantasy fan in the first sense (although I used to, and I still hope GRRM will live long enough to give ASoIaF a proper ending!), but fantasy in the second sense will always be dear to my heart.

As for being a fan of anything and fandom in general, I get being a fan of a band or a football club, but I don't think fandom is a useful approach to literary works, or cultural phenomena in general. Fans tend to be over-protective not so much of themselves (although that probably too, in an indirect way) than of the things they're fans of, and prone to knee-jerk reactions when the object of fandom is criticised. It happens to the best of us, even on these Downs.

Then again... Like Mithadan, I grew up at a time and in a place where other Tolkien readers (let alone as avid ones as myself) were few and far between, and by the time I went to university in the '80s Tolkien, and fantasy in general, was still very much A Secret Vice (TM), so being able to come out of the closet as a fan and confess to myself and a digital world of kindred spirits 'Hey, I really dig this stuff!' was actually quite liberating. Thank you all, and TBW Himself, for that!
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Old 04-20-2021, 05:22 PM   #14
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The awesomeness of Galadriel's opening monologue has come at a price though...
But then, there's the thing: the movies start to go wrong right at that very point, and never get back on track. Overlooking the vile neologism of "gifted" as a verb, note that the entire monologue (with opening line lifted from Treebeard, for whom it is more appropriate than Galadriel), goes on with "for none now live who remember it." Now that is just silly, whomever the referent of "it" is, empty-faux-profundity; but then it gets worse: the Great Rings "were made." They "were given." Passive voice all the way; no indication who made them, or who gave them, and as to the why- well, the unnamed smiths created them to contain "the power to rule each race"-- unadulterated rubbish.

The book is, even at a surface plot level, being distorted out the gate by PJ and his co-conspirators, even before we get to "Men, who above all else desire power:" a greeting-card cliche (Philippa Boyens' hallmark), and about as wrong as is possible (Tolkien on umpty-leven occasions said that Men above all else desire immortality.) And given that he also said, on umpty-leventeen occasions, that what the book is really about is death and the desire for deathlessness, we can see how wrong things are going- even before considering aspects of this theme manifested, such as the temptation and horror of the Nazgul (which of course PJ gets completely wrong).

I could go on with a line by line and scene by scene fisking, but the point is- one could, I suppose, look on the movies as a sort of analogue of Classics Illustrated comics, a gateway drug to reading the real thing- but CI never presented its adolescent reader base with a warped and distorted version of the original, which they would have to unlearn if they are to understand what they read.
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Old 04-20-2021, 05:34 PM   #15
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It was long a dream of mine (and I suspect of Christopher's, I don't really think so IRO T pere), that Tolkien would be accepted for membership in the Club: the club which includes Dickens and Hardy and Fielding and Thackeray, the club of capital-L Literature. Tolkien, taught in E.Lit courses at a university level, alongside Shakespeare and Milton! Recognized, deservedly, as a peer of Sterne and Austen!

Well- that has happened, in a way: but not at all like my dream. Rather than the Club voting Tolkien into membership, it instead decided to do away with membership altogether and throw the doors open to the proles. So now Tolkien is taught in colleges: but alongside Star Trek and Harry Potter and Buffy. Not really the same thing- you can shoulder your way to the former Members' Bar and have a drink, but you'll be propping it not alongside Maugham and Greene, but alongside George Lucas and Stan Lee (and George "Imitative Initials" Martin). Tolkien got in wearing a "Pop Culture" nametag - which is an insult.
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Old 04-20-2021, 06:34 PM   #16
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Ironically, it's just this hunger for "something like Tolkien" or "more like Tolkien" which created the market for what the Encyclopedia of Fantasy calls genre fantasy: a genre of fiction using external trappings and storytelling templates derived from Tolkien, but lacking the spirit, scope and imaginative power of his work:
Indeed, it's almost Shakespearean in its irony.

I like the distinction between Fantasy as a genre and Fantasy as a mode. I think what I like particularly is the marriage of the two, but if we're going to separate out of the chocolate and the peanuts, I want the chocolate--i.e. the mode, not the sword-and-sorcery trappings.

(I fear to speak malignantly of Dungeons & Dragons, for I have never once been involved in tabletop roleplaying and thus must admit to a great deal of ignorance, but it is my impression that for all the enjoyment brought about by those games, they have very much furthered the proliferation of the fantasy-as-a-particular-setting and--tying it back to the topic at hand, my instinctive protectiveness of Middle-earth has made me bristle at it.)

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In other words, "something like Tolkien" may perhaps be more readily found in works that don't outwardly resemble Tolkien's at all.
Indeed, I find the most like-unto-Tolkien satisfaction these days in what might be more properly called his sources than his heirs: Beowulf, Malory, Morris. Not for mere aesthetic pleasure is the quote in my signature "I prefer history, real or feigned."

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Then again... Like Mithadan, I grew up at a time and in a place where other Tolkien readers (let alone as avid ones as myself) were few and far between, and by the time I went to university in the '80s Tolkien, and fantasy in general, was still very much A Secret Vice (TM), so being able to come out of the closet as a fan and confess to myself and a digital world of kindred spirits 'Hey, I really dig this stuff!' was actually quite liberating. Thank you all, and TBW Himself, for that!
There is definitely a generational difference there. Even before the 'Downs--indeed, even before the movies--I recall meeting adults of my parents' generation excited to see that I had delved into books they remembered quite fondly (I never encountered anyone with a 'Downsian level of sustained interest until AFTER I joined the 'Downs), but it was always someone discovering me.

I love the idea of Tolkien reading as "A Secret Vice"--there's something there that captures what I mean when I speak of the "Protective" quality.
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Old 04-20-2021, 07:22 PM   #17
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In other words, "something like Tolkien" may perhaps be more readily found in works that don't outwardly resemble Tolkien's at all.
I can see that being the case, although I also enjoy reading Pratchett and I don't think I've read a Pratchett book that hasn't contained at least one allusion to Tolkien. However, I would also put Pratchett into a different sub-category of the fantasy genre. He was undoubtedly influenced by Tolkien, but managed to create a much different world that doesn't come off as a cheap attempt to copy him.

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(I fear to speak malignantly of Dungeons & Dragons, for I have never once been involved in tabletop roleplaying and thus must admit to a great deal of ignorance, but it is my impression that for all the enjoyment brought about by those games, they have very much furthered the proliferation of the fantasy-as-a-particular-setting and--tying it back to the topic at hand, my instinctive protectiveness of Middle-earth has made me bristle at it.)
I shouldn't have been surprised, after I went on my Lord of the Rings social media spam posting, that a group of friends called a few weeks ago to see if I wanted to join in their Dungeons & Dragons campaign. I suppose some would consider this being a downside to being a Tolkien extrovert, you will inevitably be asked to join more social stigmas. I mean I get it, I had that same reaction about tabletop games, but covid has changed things for me, personally. Sunday will be the third week of the campaign and I haven't had this much fun in a long time.
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Old 04-21-2021, 08:20 AM   #18
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(I fear to speak malignantly of Dungeons & Dragons, for I have never once been involved in tabletop roleplaying and thus must admit to a great deal of ignorance, but it is my impression that for all the enjoyment brought about by those games, they have very much furthered the proliferation of the fantasy-as-a-particular-setting and--tying it back to the topic at hand, my instinctive protectiveness of Middle-earth has made me bristle at it.)
I find the discussion of Tolkien's influence over the development of Dungeons & Dragons to be a very interesting topic.

Although, first, it needs to be said that the various settings that fall under the rubric of D&D are so numerous and diverse that "D&D" is really the only category that they can all accurately be grouped under.

However, the most prominent D&D settings are certainly applicable to this discussion.

As we've already alluded to in this thread as it relates to other items, Tolkien's influence over the outward trappings of D&D is so profound that in many respects it is just an outright copy, at least in origin. Once you scratch the surface and get into the themes of the stories told by D&D, Tolkien's influence quickly vanishes. In fact, in one respect or another, a lot of it ends up being in the line of "Saruman is the hero of the story because he claimed the Ring," something thematically Tolkien would have found abhorrent.

This is not to say that I don't enjoy a good D&D story, its just that in many ways Tolkien's influence is more apparent than real, or at least is superficial rather than substantive.

And D&D, even within one setting, is not helped by the fact that it usually ends up being written by committee. A fact that usually doesn't help anything where it is tried.

In recent years I've actually started enjoying playing in the Glorantha setting, not only as an aesthetic choice, but also because there is basically no discernible Tolkien influence there at all. For long years I've kind of viewed the Forgotten Realms, for example, as I would a piece of limburger. I'd take a look at it and notice this horrible smell of dreck and derivitiveness.

That being said, yes I did buy the early access of Baldur's Gate 3 and enjoyed it. Sue me.
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Old 04-21-2021, 02:13 PM   #19
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I can see that being the case, although I also enjoy reading Pratchett and I don't think I've read a Pratchett book that hasn't contained at least one allusion to Tolkien. However, I would also put Pratchett into a different sub-category of the fantasy genre. He was undoubtedly influenced by Tolkien, but managed to create a much different world that doesn't come off as a cheap attempt to copy him.
Pratchett is a special case, as he uses all the staple fantasy tropes consciously and subverts them. His work is basically a parody of genre fantasy, and by basically I mean that he uses parody as his launching pad, but in his best works he moves way beyond it.
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Old 04-21-2021, 03:05 PM   #20
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I think it's very interesting how so many of us share a certain sense of privacy when it comes to our relationship with Tolkien's works - yet we're here sharing this with each other.

I think personally I am into very many books, movies or even tv shows that have active "fandoms" but I don't feel the need to partake in them. I'm really not so interested in anybody else's interpretation and feelings about Tolkien; just about my own, and perhaps that of people I care about. And even then, I don't think I necessarily care about - for example - what my partner thinks about The Lord of the Rings because it would be an insight on LotR, I would care because it's an inisght on my partner himself.

It goes for all fandoms to a degree, but Tolkien the most. So in that sense I'm grateful I joined the 'downs when I was still a fandom extrovert looking to connect with more people, not the fandom introvert I am now that just wants to chat with her buddies. (Which all 'downers are, incidentally, whether we know each other well or not at all. <3)

What I enjoy the most about fandoms is the creativity that comes with them - fan art, theatre / music / film productions, humour, even fan fiction to a degree, and for that the community is great. But I feel that even with those these are periods where I'm more receptive and periods when I'm less receptive to this "outside influence". And I think that's okay.

Also, I don't have that experience that much with Tolkien and the PJ films, but it sure is complicated being a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire without not having much interest in (the recent seasons of) Game of Thrones. No, I don't want to discuss why I like Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth with you if you've only seen the show, because both the characters, their relationship, and the whole worldbuilding around them are not the same in the show as in the books. Likewise, I wouldn't have any interest discussing say, Aragorn's character arc with somebody who's only seen the movies, or maybe seen the movies 20 times while having read the book once 15 years ago. I don't want to advocate gatekeeping or fandom snobbery, but when it comes to things where people equate the original books with their very popular movie/tv adaptations, my heart always bleeds a little. (And I'm not saying I don't do this myself. I would be more likely to be interested in discussing The Witcher Netflix show than the books, and probably The Witcher book purists would hate to discuss The Witcher with me. And that's okay too. We live in an era of oversharing, but not everything needs to be shared with everyone.)
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Old 04-21-2021, 03:27 PM   #21
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Also, I don't have that experience that much with Tolkien and the PJ films, but it sure is complicated being a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire without not having much interest in (the recent seasons of) Game of Thrones. No, I don't want to discuss why I like Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth with you if you've only seen the show, because both the characters, their relationship, and the whole worldbuilding around them are not the same in the show as in the books. Likewise, I wouldn't have any interest discussing say, Aragorn's character arc with somebody who's only seen the movies, or maybe seen the movies 20 times while having read the book once 15 years ago. I don't want to advocate gatekeeping or fandom snobbery, but when it comes to things where people equate the original books with their very popular movie/tv adaptations, my heart always bleeds a little. (And I'm not saying I don't do this myself. I would be more likely to be interested in discussing The Witcher Netflix show than the books, and probably The Witcher book purists would hate to discuss The Witcher with me. And that's okay too. We live in an era of oversharing, but not everything needs to be shared with everyone.)
I have actually refrained from reading the books, simply because I enjoyed the show so much (at least until the later seasons). I did not want to taint that experience with knowledge about how the characters and show "ought" to be.
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Old 04-26-2021, 06:13 PM   #22
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So, I finished rereading the "What Breaks the Enchantment?" thread and this is my third attempt to write a response out of that. First I tried replying, but the topic of self-identification with the text kept pushing me here, then I tried a new thread, but that post was about to be a tangle of nonsense (didn't help that I was playing WW, having a Real Life™ conversation, AND trying to do that). So I'm here. I think it might work best here.

The long and the short of the giant argument that drove that thread to four pages in the halcyon days of 2005 was whether the enchantment being broken was the fault of the author for not writing a perfect text or the fault of the reader for bringing in outside thoughts or failing to "read up to" the text. My drowned attempt to start a new thread would have been an attempt to re-ask the question: "without passing judgment on who is responsible--Tolkien or yourself--what breaks the enchantment?"

"Breaking the enchantment," by the bye, is how LMP, as the progenitor of that thread, termed the moment when the reader's "suspension of disbelief" fails--the moment when you stop being IN the fiction and are mentally knocked out of it.

The reason that I couldn't successfully reply there, and why simply re-asking that question as a new thread, failed is that my answer is much too simple: I really don't find that the enchantment breaks for me anymore. Mind you, it never REALLY did, but in some of those earlier years, when I was no longer a child but was still being opened up to critical thinking and analytical reading (so... my early years here, really), I did FEAR that it might.

But, somehow, I've passed through two degrees and writing a published paper (to say nothing of 16 years here) and a mellowing of my firebrand-edged youth into an almost agnostic complexity... and the enchantment still hasn't broken. Part of this is definitely because there is still that fence about heart: I'll happily talk your ear off about geopolitics of first millennium of the Third Age for hours, but I avoid talking or discussing what Tolkien means.

It's easy to divert this into "allegory vs. applicability" (not least because that is Tolkien's own feint), or to start self-analyzing myself ("does this discomfort stem from a recognition that Tolkien, whom you have idolised, is actually deeply problematic?"), and I kind of AM doing that: I'm saying that Middle-earth and everything around it is so much a part of the story of me that I don't want to break it apart lest I break myself apart.

But the reason I couch all this in the "what breaks the enchantment" question is that I've realised I have something of a middle ground on the question--it's not a cut-and-dried "nothing breaks it" answer suggesting complete imperviousness, as the answer might have been in 2005. But as I've spent more and more time with the critical side of being a Tolkienist (and have become more of a "nonfiction" person in my life generally--I read 20 nonfiction books a year, preferably 600-page tomes with copious footnotes, and shy away from any new fiction), I've returned to reading Tolkien to discover that I'm simultaneously both inside and outside the enchantment.

In this respect, the ability to be more "in and out" strikes me as a kind of self-understanding: as I get older I understand myself better (I think--also realising just how much I dissemble and am a construct even to myself), and this sort of dualism: being inside myself and being able to analyze myself is where I'm at with "the enchantment" too.

So... I don't know where this post should have landed in the end, but I figured this is the newer thread and the shorter thread and, what's most important, I actually FINISHED the post here.
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