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RE: [mythsoc] Some questions for a Thesis

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  • Croft, Janet B
    Below are a few responses for you. If you go to my webpage you will see some of my publications in Tolkien studies listed. Janet Brennan Croft Head of Access
    Message 1 of 7 , Dec 3, 2003
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      Below are a few responses for you. If you go to my webpage you will see
      some of my publications in Tolkien studies listed.



      Janet Brennan Croft

      Head of Access Services

      University of Oklahoma

      Bizzell Library NW104

      Norman OK 73019

      405-325-1918

      fax 405-325-7618

      jbcroft@...

      http://libraries.ou.edu/ <http://libraries.ou.edu/>

      http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/C/Janet.B.Croft-1/
      <http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/C/Janet.B.Croft-1/>

      -----------------------------------------------------------------

      Hubris is stealing fire from the gods. Chutzpah is offering to sell it back.



      _____

      From: Daniel B. Karpouzian [mailto:daniel@...]
      Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2003 6:25 PM
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [mythsoc] Some questions for a Thesis



      I am just finishing up a thesis on Tolkien, involving different allegory
      and different meanings that people see and draw from J.R.R. Tolkien's
      writing, and I would VERY MUCH APPRECIATE answers to the following few
      questions. And also, a quick answer would also be appreciated! :-)




      1. Have you read The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and/or The
      Silmarillion?
      If so, which, and how many times?



      Read The Hobbit and LotR at least 25 times the whole way through.
      Silmarillion - probably only 3 times the whole way through. With all of
      these I dip in from time to time. I've also read Tolkien's other works
      varying numbers of times.


      2. Have you seen the movies? Yes
      Did you think they were an accurate representation of the
      books? No; poor screenwriting, but good scenery and costumes. Some casting
      and makeup was off. But the script changed too many things, including the
      characters, which is the most important thing.


      3. Which is your favorite and why? Favorite book or movie? This is
      somewhat unclear. LotR is my favorite Tolkien long work, and I count it as
      one unit because that's how Tolkien wrote it. I like Farmer Giles of Ham
      best among the short works, simply because it is a wonderful combination of
      earthy and intellectual fun. Favorite movie? I guess I dislike The
      Fellowship the least. I don't really like either of them, and don't
      anticipate liking RotK, considering what scenes Peter Jackson has dropped.


      4. Do you see any specific allegories that Tolkien may have written
      into his writing?



      As you know, Tolkien disliked allegory - or said he did. There is a very
      specific allegorical passage in his essay Beowulf and the Critics. His
      short story Leaf by Niggle is probably his most allegorical. Smith of
      Wootten Major is also allegorical, but more in a more obscure and personal
      way; in many ways Smith represents Tolkien, but the precise meaning of his
      adventures and what they relate to in Tolkien's personal life is hard to
      tease out. As far as LotR, of course many people thought the Ring was an
      allegory for the Bomb. But that is too specific. It's more an allegory of
      the corrupting effects of power in general - and since it's general, it's
      more of a symbol than an allegory.


      5. Do you see any meaning Tolkien was attempting to portray?



      Many meanings. LotR is a multiple-layered work. But the problem of power
      seems central to me, at least in my most recent readings.


      6. Do you have a religious or spiritual orientation? (ie. Atheist,
      Agnostic, Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Wiccan, Satanist, etc.)



      Agnostic.


      7. Are there any particular parts of any of those books that hold
      significant meaning for you? If so, why?



      "It's all good", as the saying goes. I suppose in my recent readings the
      Scouring of the Shire has become more meaningful, with its explorations of
      post-traumatic stress syndrome, the shortcomings and strengths of pacifism,
      and the responsibilities of maturity.


      8. What background information, if any at all, do you see Tolkien
      drawing from, and if so, what specifically do you see? (ie. Anglo-Saxon
      lit, Icelandic lit, Nordic lit, Celtic lit, Classical lit)



      All of the above, and then some. He was very widely read.


      9. What do you think Tolkien 'meant' in his writing?



      This seems to repeat question 5 above.


      10. What similarities and differences do you see between the writings
      of J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien? Specifically in reference to themes
      such as good and evil, the
      use of magic, and things of that nature.



      I think it's too early to really do a serious comparison of the two; I'd
      wait till she finishes the series. But I will say at this point the
      good-vs-evil theme is similar. But their approach to magic is very
      different. For Rowling, it's simply a tool, with no good or evil
      connotations per se; it depends on how it is used. For Tolkien magic is
      more problematic and subtle; he sees a difference between magic and
      enchantment, and likens magic more to technology. And his approach to magic
      is tied in with his thoughts on creativity, and on possessing or letting go
      that which one creates.



      Thank you all so much for your help, and you will be cited if I use your
      answers. If you would like a copy upon its completion, pls. let me
      know! :-)



      I'd be interested in seeing your completed thesis.




      I remain,
      -Daniel B. Karpouzian
      ----------
      Mat 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of
      heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.



      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]






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    • Elizabeth R. Milner
      Sorry if people have been a bit snappish toward you on the list serve. Since Tolkien didn t like simplistic allegorical interpretations of his writings, it s
      Message 2 of 7 , Dec 9, 2003
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        Sorry if people have been a bit snappish toward you on the list serve.
        Since Tolkien didn't like simplistic allegorical interpretations of
        his writings, it's not surprising that your attempt to discover
        allegory in LOTR has raised some hackles. It also would have been
        good if you'd provided an off-line email address. This eats up a lot
        of message space and people will get tired of seeing the same
        questionnaire over and over again.

        Where are you studying? Will we get to see your results? You really
        should come to Mythcon and do in-depth interviews.

        Here are my answers to your questions.

        1. Have you read The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and/or The
        Silmarillion?

        LOTR: Innumerable times since the pirate (ACE) edition came out
        (I was 8 or 9 at the time). I read an ACE and a Ballentine paperback
        to shreds.
        The Hobbit: 2 or 3 times
        Silmarillion: twice
        History of Middle Earth: once, some volumes more than once.

        2. Have you seen the movies?

        I've seen Peter Jackson's FOTR and TT

        Did you think they were an accurate representation of the books?

        FOTR-yes, most of the changes seemed valid to me from a script
        writing point of view. (It gives me the shivers to think of how they
        would have handled Tom Bombadil--Robin Williams, no doubt, in a
        performance so sticky sweet it would rot the teeth right out of your
        head!)
        TT-felt writers had made huge departure from the book and had dumbed
        it down. Also, I loved the book because the Hobbits learn to take
        control of their destinies and don't depend on generals with great
        abs and big swords to save them. In the movie it's just the opposite.
        3. Which is your favorite and why?
        Of the Peter Jackson Movies, The Fellowship. Of the Books, The Two
        Towers because it doesn't have the tedious first chapters of the
        Fellowship,because it's the middle, so I don't have to worry about
        finishing too soon, because I enjoyed Pippin's outsmarting the orcs
        and bonding with Treebeard, and especially because of the "Dead
        Marshes" scene. My father was a military historian and our house was
        full of battle photos.
        When I read the Dead Marshes chapter, my hair stood on end. This was
        not only because the description of the marshes by moonlight was so
        eerie and beautifully written, but because I felt I recognized the
        place Tolkien was describing without being able to remember why it
        all seemed so familiar.

        4. Do you see any specific allegories that Tolkien may have written
        into his writing?

        Tolkien was a fairly subtle writer who didn't drive his lessons
        home with a hammer, so attempts to relate specific scenes to specific
        allegories will, I think, prove unprofitable.

        There are allegorical elements, certainly. In the Two Towers there are
        several instances where one of the sundered fellowship will look
        up at the moon or observe a change in the weather and then
        despairingly wonder about another member of the sundered fellowship
        who, at that very moment and only a few miles a way is also observing
        the same change in the moon or the weather and thinking despairingly
        of the probable fate of his absent friend. And both will despair,
        not knowing the change they've just observed heralds one of
        Tolkien's "eucatastrophes." While the characters only see ruin, the
        reader is given a gods-eye view and --yes!--The cavalry is just
        around the corner!

        5) This, I suppose is an allegory for the role divine providence
        plays in human affairs. It also makes for a cracking good yarn!

        6. Do you have a religious or spiritual orientation?
        Jew raised in a Catholic neighborhood.

        7. Are there any particular parts of any of those books that hold
        significant meaning for you? If so, why?

        Tolkien depicts the ennoblement of the hobbits. For me, the story of
        a person learning to be "more than the sum of his parts" is very
        moving. Frodo has to discover his integrity and find the courage to
        pursue a heartbreaking and impossible quest without the usual
        trappings of the romance hero -- he is as small and helpless and
        insignificant as you can get. Also, Frodo is an overeducated nerd
        who proves himself worthy outside of academe by saving the world.
        Now that's a fantasy that resonates with me!

        8. What background information, if any at all, do you see
        Tolkien drawing from, and if so, what specifically do you see?

        My God! What didn't he draw from! Philology, Folklore, Myth,
        Catholicism,Paganism, you name it! Like all good writers he was a
        sponge and absorbed everything. Tom Shippey and Verlyn Flieger are
        good sources for his influences.

        9. What do you think Tolkien `meant' in his writing?

        What does any good writer "mean." Your never going to get Tolkien
        down to one message. For that you should call Western Union!
        (Neanderthal movie joke). Tolkien was creating a world, a universe,
        that one can inhabit, not a freaking telegram!

        Tolkien's writing was often a play of ideas, a thought experiment.
        He couldn't live forever, but through the elves he got a taste
        of what it might be like. In part Tolkien was creating an alternate
        world where he could test what our world really means.

        10. What similarities and differences do you see between the
        writings of J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien? Specifically in
        reference to themes such as good and evil, the use of magic, and
        things of that nature.

        I'm going to be no help to you on this one. Rowling's writing bores
        me to tears. It has no depth, no texture, it's about cardboard
        cutouts.

        Hope this is some help and I hope to see you at Mythcon. If
        possible, can you summarize what your paper's about?
        > >
        --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Daniel B. Karpouzian" <daniel@k...>
        wrote:
        > I am just finishing up a thesis on Tolkien, involving different
        allegory
        > and different meanings that people see and draw from J.R.R.
        Tolkien's
        > writing, and I would VERY MUCH APPRECIATE answers to the following
        few
        > questions. And also, a quick answer would also be appreciated! :-)
        > 1. Have you read The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and/or The
        > Silmarillion?
        > If so, which, and how many times?
        > 2. Have you seen the movies?
        > Did you think they were an accurate representation of the
        > books?
        > 3. Which is your favorite and why?
        > 4. Do you see any specific allegories that Tolkien may have written
        > into his writing?
        > 5. Do you see any meaning Tolkien was attempting to portray?
        > 6. Do you have a religious or spiritual orientation? (ie. Atheist,
        > Agnostic, Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Wiccan, Satanist,
        etc.)
        > 7. Are there any particular parts of any of those books that hold
        > significant meaning for you? If so, why?
        > 8. What background information, if any at all, do you see Tolkien
        > drawing from, and if so, what specifically do you see? (ie. Anglo-
        Saxon
        > lit, Icelandic lit, Nordic lit, Celtic lit, Classical lit)
        > 9. What do you think Tolkien `meant' in his writing?
        > 10. What similarities and differences do you see between the
        writings
        > of J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien? Specifically in reference to
        themes
        > such as good and evil, the
        > use of magic, and things of that nature.
        >
        > Thank you all so much for your help, and you will be cited if I use
        your
        > answers. If you would like a copy upon its completion, pls. let me
        > know! :-)
        >
        >
        > I remain,
        > -Daniel B. Karpouzian
        > ----------
        > Mat 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the
        kingdom of
        > heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
        >
        >
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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