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3690Tolkien's runes of power (was Re: Digest Number 632)

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  • David J. Finnamore
    Jul 17, 2001
      --- In mythsoc@y..., "Michael Martinez" <michael@x> wrote:
      > I don't believe Tolkien would have tried to follow any historical
      > examples of "magic runes". His magic was not "magic", which would
      > have offended his Christian values. Instead, his magic was
      > natural, a native talent.

      Good point. I don't know about "native talent," though. I see it
      more as learned skill, the mastery of lore. Elvish "magic" was
      chiefly, in the words of Aurthur C. Clark, "sufficiently advanced
      technology." Not technology as we think of it in the post-modern era,
      but in the most general sense. But it was also just a little bit
      more. (See below.)

      > The runes of power would not NECESSARILY
      > have to rely upon special arrangements or symbology.

      But they might involve those sometimes. More importantly, word play,
      layered meanings in names, and such, are important facets of Tolkien's

      > His runes of power may have been nothing more than a passing idea
      > thrown in to a couple of passages for effect. That is, they would
      > have been there, a part of Middle-earth, but there would have been
      > real explanation for them (WHY are they there, HOW do they work?).
      > They provided a sense of completeness, so to speak. But there would
      > be no occultic associations because Tolkien was telling a story, not
      > describing the occult.

      I didn't mean to imply occult, more like Cabal or something. But
      anyway, the man wants ideas about what to inscribe in his instrument;
      the point here is to encourage creative thought, to raise
      possibilities. Getting too technical in the creative stage can shut
      down the juices.

      > Sauron's words in the One Ring MAY be part of
      > his "spell", but Tolkien never says so (not in any writing I can
      > recall).

      Consider Elrond's reaction, and Frodo's perception, when Gandalf
      quoted them in the original Black Tongue at Rivendell.

      > The words on the west-gate may simply be a message, an
      > instruction sign as it were: "Turn knob and push while holding knob
      > in turned position" would be equivalent for a modern door.

      This claim leaves my head spinning. Was the gate not opened by, and
      only by, the speaking of the appropriate word in the appropriate
      language? Yes, it certainly was an instruction sign: the instruction
      was to say the magic word!

      In Middle-earth, words have a magnified power. There is nothing
      anti-Christian about the idea that words have power of/over matter.
      Genisis 1. John 1. The idea that even individual letters contain
      some vestige of that power is very old in the Judeo-Christian
      tradition. It was submerged for a while by the so-called
      Enlightenment but we're getting over it, finally.

      And there was great rejoicing. (Yea!)

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