Re: [mythsoc] A question in Tolkien Criticism
- Tolkien's clearest explication of what he meant by the Northern spirit
might be in the essay portions of "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth
Beorhthelm's Son". Here Tolkien distinguishes clearly between disapproval
of Beorhtnoth's _ofermod_ and approval of the hard if fatalistic fighting
spirit of the men bound to follow him.
"Even ultimate defeat does not turn good into evil," Gandalf or someone
says in LOTR, and that's why Theoden, and later the Lords of the West in
their march against Mordor, fight against the expectation of defeat:
they're expressing the Northern spirit without anybody's _ofermod_ to
confuse the issue.
It also differs from Hitler's Gotterdammerung in that Hitler was trying to
pull down everything around him in sheer spitefulness. The closest thing
to that in Tolkien is the suicide of Denethor, quite different from the
self-sacrifice of many others, even Boromir.
On the subject of critics misinterpreting the Inklings as praising the
Nazis, I'm reminded of A.N. Wilson's misreading of a Lewis letter. The
letter criticized Nazi aesthetics, but Wilson misread it as sharing them.
Somebody must have whispered in Wilson's ear, though, because the whole
passage disappeared in the softcover edition of his biography.
- David Bratman
- On Sep 26, 2003, at 10:56 AM, Stolzi@... wrote:
> I see Aelfwine has interpreted the reference also in a somewhatI link it _partly_ to that slaughter, in that it was among the
> unfavorable sense, though he links it to the slaughter of the BEF
> rather than to the much-vaunted "Will" of Hitler and Co.
manifestations and consequences of the northern-spirited "martial
heroism" that Tolkien saw in his own time. But I do not link it _only_
to that, any more than Tolkien would have linked Beowulf's own martial
heroism only to his death at the hands/claws/jaws of the dragon.
Indeed, the point that Tolkien is making is that _northern_ heroism is
characterized by willingness to sacrifice one's life even in the face
of certain defeat -- and defeat is the one certainty within the circles
of this world, as both the northern pagans and the Christians Tolkien
is comparing recognized -- simply because it is the right thing for Man
to do: to struggle and persevere against the Monsters.
Carl F. Hostetter Aelfwine@... http://www.elvish.org
ho bios brachys, he de techne makre.
Ars longa, vita brevis.
The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.
"I wish life was not so short," he thought. "Languages take such
a time, and so do all the things one wants to know about."
- Seems to me that the British in WWI - at least, the ones who weren't totally
disaffected by it all (War Poets) - would have thought of themselves not so
much as Northern, as representing "the forces of Christian civilization" -
everything all the way from Jerusalem through Rome and Europe to the North -
against Barbarism from the East - they even called the Germans "the Hun." This
although the Kaiser by no means disavowed Judeo-Christian civilization in the
way that Hitler did, and though the German atrocities in -that- war were largely
propaganda inventions iirc. I think of Belloc: "Europe is the Faith, the
Faith is Europe."
There was not nearly the sense of a "desperate and possibly losing last
stand", I think, that the British had in the later conflict - Dunkirk, the Battle
of Britain, and "we shall fight them on the beaches..." etc. - a conflict
which hadn't yet happened when Tolkien delivered BEOWULF: THE MONSTER AND THE
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