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Re: [mythsoc] A question in Tolkien Criticism

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  • David S. Bratman
    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
    Message 1 of 9 , Sep 26, 2003
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      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
    • Carl F. Hostetter
      ... I link it _partly_ to that slaughter, in that it was among the manifestations and consequences of the northern-spirited martial heroism that Tolkien saw
      Message 2 of 9 , Sep 26, 2003
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        On Sep 26, 2003, at 10:56 AM, Stolzi@... wrote:

        > I see Aelfwine has interpreted the reference also in a somewhat
        > unfavorable sense, though he links it to the slaughter of the BEF
        > rather than to the much-vaunted "Will" of Hitler and Co.

        I link it _partly_ to that slaughter, in that it was among the
        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."
      • Stolzi@aol.com
        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
        Message 3 of 9 , Sep 27, 2003
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          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
          CRITICS.


          Diamond Proudbrook



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