22715RE: [mythsoc] New article series: Interviews with the Scholars
- Oct 14, 2011
Hm, I hope my bit on Sam as batman didn’t come off as too disparaging. What they did, as personal assistants to officers, was extremely important and went beyond just shining their shoes, and I agree Sam’s role as batman was very much like that of a personal quarter-master for their two-man expedition. Tolkien’s attention to the details is one reason I always want to be on the road with dwarves again in the autumn. But the details can still seem mundane from the outside – until someone forgets to take care of them and you find yourself wanting a bit of rope or a pinch of salt!
(Just to clarify, that 2nd paragraph on Wilson was Michael’s and it’s slated to be switched to italics like his other paragraphs within the interview.)
"Michael Martinez" <michael.martinez@...> wrote:
I really like reading "How I Discovered Tolkien" stories. I don't see them
as self-indulgent, but as enlightening and unimpeachable personal testimony,
and cumulatively as evidence of patterns of dissemination. I hope you keep
I knew that Edmund Wilson disliked Sayers, but other than that he found _The
Nine Tailors_ dull and boring (he hated genre mysteries in general), I don't
remember what else he may have said about her. Moral clarity, which LOTR
does have in common with genre mysteries, might be part of it, but if so
Wilson was too dim to realize what was driving his own distaste.
I tend to doubt that Wilson's attack on LOTR did much to drive its defense.
When new, LOTR attracted the attention of other notable literati, some of
whom, notably CSL, W.H. Auden, and Naomi Mitchison, were vigorous in praise.
So it was on the critical review map without Wilson. Wilson's critique was
so off - to the extent that some have wondered if he never actually read the
book, but only skimmed it hastily - that it's almost impossible to write a
detailed rebuttal (you can't rebut someone who doesn't accept the premises).
The early pro-Tolkien articles I know tend to consider LOTR's depths as
self-evident and a matter of inherent wonder, and not to have been searched
for in an attempt to show up this Wilson guy.
I wouldn't describe Sam's role as as mundane as "taking care of all the
hum-drum details for his master." He's the quartermaster of this little
two-man expedition. That's a dignified and vital role in any military duty;
modern armies have more support troops than fighting men. Part of Tolkien's
genius is that throughout the journey (even with the full Fellowship) he
always keeps the reader aware of the supplies situation and its effect on
the plans for the journey, without ever getting boring or mechanical about
I'll chime in and concur that there's no reason to flatten Tolkien's
feelings about Shakespeare. Tom Shippey explored the complexity of this in
_The Road to Middle-earth_ and plenty of others have expanded on this, even
before Janet's collection came out. But then, it's constantly necessary to
fight off oversimplified misapprehensions of this kind.
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