The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum


Visit The *EVEN NEWER* Barrow-Downs Photo Page

Go Back   The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum > Middle-Earth Discussions > The Books
User Name
Password
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 02-25-2008, 10:55 AM   #1
Bêthberry
Cryptic Aura
 
Bêthberry's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 6,072
Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
Tolkien Tolkien as a British Character

Right now, we've got this highly respectable Oxford don, dedicated family man, sincere in his faith, who in his spare time--and not so spare time, even when marking exams and papers--was given over to creating languages which would never be spoken (unless purloined for modern movies) and making up worlds, histories and mythologies complete with maps and geneologies using species that defy known laws of physics and physiology.

So, does this earn Tolkien a place in that great Pantheon of English Eccentricity? Is he one of the great Oddballs of Oxford? Was he barking up an Entish tree?

We are so accustomed here on the Barrow Downs to upholding Tolkien's integrity in the face of academic derision and belittling critics, but I wonder sometimes if in fact we don't do Tolkien a greater injustice in failing to see that he belongs to his nation's great traditions of Quirky Characters.

What say ye all?

Here's summat to get you started thinking: Mad dogs and Englishmen
__________________
I’ll sing his roots off. I’ll sing a wind up and blow leaf and branch away.
Bêthberry is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-25-2008, 12:16 PM   #2
Lalwendë
A Mere Boggart
 
Lalwendë's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: under the bed
Posts: 4,804
Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Well you could just say "madness is akin to genius" ("...and other cliches...") and have done but that's dismissing him as a British eccentric. That's correct. Because he was eccentric.

He wouldn't get away with it today. He'd have the publisher breathing down his neck as soon as The Hobbit hit number 1 and he'd have had to churn out Lord of the Rings sharpish (we'd have had Trotter and so forth...). And then some more books too. He might not even have got it published at all as it might have been feared it was too 'mad'.

What breeds eccentrics in Britain in particular I think is the way we hate boastfulness, and with it, visible success. It's just vulgar and 'a bit chav' to show off how much money you've made, even if it is through honest hard work, and as a consequence, we do seem to like loafers more than strivers - we even have a splendid magazine called The Idler and a website dedicated to biscuits and cakes and teabreaks http://www.nicecupofteaandasitdown.com/ Yes, even in the corridors of power you meddle with a civil servant's entitlement to a teabreak At Your Peril...and look how flustered Bilbo was when all those dwarves threatened to eat the tasty contents of his larder

So, with a culture that values the opportunity to sit and take a fifteen minute break morning and afternoon, a one hour lunch and six weeks' holiday we have time to ponder 'Stuff'. And that's why there are so many eccentrics.

Of course Tolkien did not have a whole lot of spare time until he was middle aged as with a large family in the pre-NHS era he had to work silly hours just to pay the doctor's bills, recording linguaphone lessons, marking school exams and setting exams for soldiers, and so forth. But he still wasted all that precious free time not in doing something 'productive' but in making up languages and poems about Elves.

That was all perfectly OK in Oxford of course, home to many eccentrics down the years, including Tolkien's contemporary the notorious Maurice Bowra, Professor of Poetry and Warden of Wadham - Tolkien is small-fry in the mad stakes in comparison, though in and of himself he was somewhat odd being a Catholic in a very CofE city and University. I've heard it said many a time that Oxford is a bit like a magnet for eccentrics.

And he used to smoke his pipe while riding his bike. What more proof do you need?
__________________
Gordon's alive!
Lalwendë is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-25-2008, 01:16 PM   #3
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
William Cloud Hicklin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 2,142
William Cloud Hicklin is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.William Cloud Hicklin is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Of course, in the Modern-Era tyranny of publish-or-perish he would have been obliged not to waste all that time on Elvish nonsense and keep churning out academic articles to keep the Productivity Police happy.
__________________
The entire plot of The Lord of the Rings could be said to turn on what Sauron didn’t know, and when he didn’t know it.
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-25-2008, 03:16 PM   #4
Eönwë
Flame Imperishable
 
Eönwë's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Right here
Posts: 3,995
Eönwë is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Eönwë is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Eönwë is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.
Lal, that website sounds very hobbitish

Quote:
Originally Posted by www.nicecupofteaandasitdown.com
A strict limit of only one breakfast a day
not to mention all the food.



Yes, Britain, especially England is full of eccentrics (I should know, I live there).
__________________
Welcome to the Barrow Do-owns Forum / Such a lovely place
Eönwë is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-26-2008, 08:40 AM   #5
Bêthberry
Cryptic Aura
 
Bêthberry's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 6,072
Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë View Post
Well you could just say "madness is akin to genius" ("...and other cliches...") and have done but that's dismissing him as a British eccentric. That's correct. Because he was eccentric.

Tolkien is small-fry in the mad stakes in comparison, though in and of himself he was somewhat odd being a Catholic in a very CofE city and University. I've heard it said many a time that Oxford is a bit like a magnet for eccentrics.
Well, yes, about the genius/madness bit. I can't help but consider Tolkien and Blake together. Both created vast mythologies, new deities, poetry, and visual arts. Blake apparently used to sit naked under trees and converse with angels, but I've never heard of Tolkien doing this. Sitting under trees, yes, but not starkers. And I can't recall anything in the bio or the letters about Tollers conversing with Ulmo, Manwe, Varda, Melkor.

So this is the point I was rather interested in: is Tolkien "small-fry in the mad stakes"? Was he more eccentric than his compatriots and fellow countrymen?

Frankly, I wonder about his political acumen when I read about a girdle holding a country together. Granted the meaning of girdle as corset or restraining undergarment didn't come into vogue until c. 1925, I still have strange images of a female leader walking around with ungirded loins while her country survives a tight squeeze.

And could he not twig to how the name Asfaloth sounds? Think of the sport actors would have crying out to their fellow thespians as they walk on stage, Bregalad. Isn't there a bit of fun in Aragorn becoming King E-lesser? And if a farmer can be named Maggot, can readers have fun with dropping the 'heitch' of North Farthing--"Is wasn't me that dropped one, Maw, it was the cat." Or seeing a similarity of sound and rhythm between Undomiel and Ungoliant? Going and doing they lay waste their powers?

Frankly, I think this kind of word play is the opposite of what Lal calls a desire to avoid boastfulness: it's the very kind of arrogance that hides its silliness in a seeming display of learnedness. We tend to take Tolkien's languages as something serious, sacred, even sacrosanct, but I think The Good Professor was too eccentric to be so sombre. Tollers was a Python before their time.
__________________
I’ll sing his roots off. I’ll sing a wind up and blow leaf and branch away.
Bêthberry is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-26-2008, 09:40 AM   #6
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
William Cloud Hicklin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 2,142
William Cloud Hicklin is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.William Cloud Hicklin is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Even in his own lifetime, JRRT's rep leaned toward the slight;y off-center:

from a campus novel called A Memorial Service by J.I.M. Stewart:

Quote:
‘A sad case,’ [the Regius Professor] concluded unexpectedly.

‘Timbermill’s, you mean?’

‘Yes, indeed. A notable scholar, it seems. Unchallenged in his field. But he ran off the rails somehow, and produced a long mad book – a kind of apocalyptic romance.’
__________________
The entire plot of The Lord of the Rings could be said to turn on what Sauron didn’t know, and when he didn’t know it.
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-26-2008, 12:03 PM   #7
Lalwendë
A Mere Boggart
 
Lalwendë's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: under the bed
Posts: 4,804
Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bêthberry View Post
Frankly, I think this kind of word play is the opposite of what Lal calls a desire to avoid boastfulness: it's the very kind of arrogance that hides its silliness in a seeming display of learnedness. We tend to take Tolkien's languages as something serious, sacred, even sacrosanct, but I think The Good Professor was too eccentric to be so sombre. Tollers was a Python before their time.
And there's another aspect of British culture, the urge to downplay everything, and it's maybe why Tolkien's work is full of jokes and amusing characters. It's all very well, being sort of grand and Wagnerian, but it's just not cricket to get too pompous about things.

Take a look at Gandalf and his sense of humour. You can just imagine him coming down from Caradhras and giving a little shiver and saying "Bit nippy up there chaps!" Captain Oates words to Scott in the Antarctic were typically British: "I am just going outside and may be some time" which meant he was walking off into a blizzard in order to commit suicide for the sake of his comrades.

Though to be truly mad, you really need to be stinking rich, as then you can get away with it - ordinary mad people just get locked up but if Lords go barmy we just laugh and go "Heh, look, he's a real eccentric." Like at the 5th Duke of Portland, my favourite Mr Mad.
__________________
Gordon's alive!
Lalwendë is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-24-2008, 11:19 AM   #8
Bêthberry
Cryptic Aura
 
Bêthberry's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 6,072
Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
Timbermill, that's a right proper nick for the old guy. Nice find, WCH.

We seem stymied here between saying that all the English are barmy and saying that only some of them are. So, let's climb a little higher into the Tolkien family tree.

If JRRT was eccentric and quirky, was CRT?
__________________
I’ll sing his roots off. I’ll sing a wind up and blow leaf and branch away.
Bêthberry is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-24-2008, 01:12 PM   #9
Mithalwen
Pilgrim Soul
 
Mithalwen's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: watching the wonga-wonga birds circle...
Posts: 9,904
Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.
One of Orwell's essays - I think it is "England, your England" mentions the English love of hobbies... and the privateness of the way of life

another English characteristic which is so much a part of us that we barely notice it, and that is the addiction to hobbies and spare-time occupations, the privateness of English life. We are a nation of flower-lovers, but also a nation of stamp-collectors, pigeon-fanciers, amateur carpenters, coupon-snippers, darts-players, crossword-puzzle fans. All the culture that is most truly native centres round things which even when they are communal are not official—the pub, the football match, the back garden, the fireside and the ‘nice cup of tea’. The liberty of the individual is still believed in, almost as in the nineteenth century. But this has nothing to do with economic liberty, the right to exploit others for profit. It is the liberty to have a home of your own, to do what you like in your spare time, to choose your own amusements instead of having them chosen for you from above.


http://whitewolf.newcastle.edu.au/wo...d/england.html
Even though Orwellwas writing over half a century ago I think a lot of what he says holds true. There may be the aristocratic eccentrics who have left their legacy of glorious follies but they exist across society.
__________________
“But Finrod walks with Finarfin his father beneath the trees in Eldamar.”

Christopher Tolkien, Requiescat in pace
Mithalwen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-24-2008, 03:58 PM   #10
Gwathagor
Shade with a Blade
 
Gwathagor's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: A Rainy Night In Soho
Posts: 2,613
Gwathagor is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Gwathagor is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Gwathagor is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.
Send a message via AIM to Gwathagor Send a message via MSN to Gwathagor Send a message via Skype™ to Gwathagor
I'm inclined to believe that Tolkien was not eccentric in the least, but, on the contrary, remarkably sane.
__________________
Stories and songs.
Gwathagor is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-04-2008, 05:18 AM   #11
The Sixth Wizard
Shade of Carn Dûm
 
The Sixth Wizard's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Stuck under a rock in Valinor with Ar-Pharazon.
Posts: 495
The Sixth Wizard has just left Hobbiton.
Send a message via MSN to The Sixth Wizard
Look, Cambridge built a bridge, Oxford swam across. Who do you think is simpler?
The Sixth Wizard is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-05-2008, 03:24 AM   #12
Eönwë
Flame Imperishable
 
Eönwë's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Right here
Posts: 3,995
Eönwë is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Eönwë is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Eönwë is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.
Or rather, who doesn't bother with the unuseful tasks.
__________________
Welcome to the Barrow Do-owns Forum / Such a lovely place
Eönwë is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 12:03 AM.



Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2022, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.