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MERP essay - Hobbitry-in-Armchairs: Philandering Tolkien's Philology

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  • Michael Martinez
    I thought some of you might enjoy this (or, maybe, enjoy taking me to task for it). I am trying to check the list 2-3 times a week, so please be patient if
    Message 1 of 3 , Apr 25, 2005
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      I thought some of you might enjoy this (or, maybe, enjoy taking me to
      task for it). I am trying to check the list 2-3 times a week, so
      please be patient if anyone follows up and I don't reply immediately.


      This is the teaser...
      An armchair investigation of tongue-in-cheek or pen-in-hand Biblical
      passages which might have, could have, would have, never did, and may
      still be influencing Tolkien preternaturally, posthumorously, or
      sincerely. In plain English, "As Coroner I must aver I've thoroughly
      examined her. And she's not only merely dead, she's truly most
      sincerely dead." Your mileage may vary. Tax, tags, and title are not
      included. Real Hobbits don't eat cram. This cliched space for rent.


      The essay begins here...
      In Letter 165, written for the Houghton Mifflin Company (J.R.R.
      Tolkien's American publisher) on 5 June 1955, Tolkien explained
      himself for the sake of future "enquirers" who would need reference
      to material about Tolkien's background and to elaborate on some
      points he had made in a letter written to Harvey Breit of the New
      York Times, because Breit's article had left Tolkien feeling
      defensive and misrepresented. Breit had quoted Tolkien at one point
      as saying, "I am a philologist, and all my work is philological. I
      avoid hobbies because I am a very serious person and cannot
      distinguish between private amusement and duty." Concerning this
      point, Tolkien wrote in Letter 165:

      If I might elucidate what H. Breit has made
      of my letter: the remark about 'philology'
      was intended to allude to what is I think a
      primary 'fact' about my work [The Lord of the
      Rings], that it is all of a piece, and
      fundamentally linguistic in inspiration. The
      authorities of the university might well
      consider it an aberration of an elderly professor
      of philology to write and publish fairy stories
      and romances, and call it a 'hobby', pardonable
      because it has been (suprisingly to me as much
      as to anyone) successful. But it is not a
      'hobby', in the sense of something quite
      different from one's work, taken up as a
      relief-outlet. The invention of languages is
      the foundation. The 'stories' were made rather
      to provide a world for the language than the
      reverse. To me a name comes first and the
      story follows. I should have preferred to write
      in 'Elvish'. But, of course, such a work as The
      Lord of the Rings has been edited and only as
      much 'language' has been left in as I thought
      would be stomached by readers. (I now find
      that many would have liked more.) But there
      is a great deal of linguistic matter (other
      than actually 'elvish' names and words) included
      or mythologically expressed in the book. It is
      to me, anyway, largely an essay in 'linguistic
      aesthetic', as I sometimes say to people who
      ask me 'what is it all about?'

      It is not 'about' anything but itself. Certainly
      it has no allegorical intentions, general,
      particular, topical, moral, religious, or
      political. The only criticism that annoyed me
      was one that it 'contained no religion' (and 'no
      Women', but that does not matter and is not true
      anyway). It is a monotheistic world of 'natural
      theology'. The odd fact that there are no
      churches, temples, or religious rites and
      ceremonies, is simply part of the historical
      climate depicted. It will be sufficiently
      explained, if (as now seems likely) the
      Silmarillion and other legends of the First and
      Second Ages are published. I am in any case
      myself a Christian: but the 'Third Age' was
      not a Christian world.

      While Tolkien's stress on the lack of allegorical intentions in his
      story has merited much hemming and hawing among commentators, his
      allegory-like elements are usually held to be applicable to
      allegorical interpretation by reverent scholars and as conspicuous
      examples of Tolkien's double-dealing by less respectful writers.
      Nonetheless, even the most deferential observers cannot help but
      notice parallels between Tolkien's stories and numerous sources such
      as The Bible. For though the world of Third Age Middle-earth is
      clearly not Christian in detail, it is nonetheless proto-Judaic and
      pre-Christian in design. The "good guys" know there is a God and they
      generally abide by the guidance of his emissaries, the Valar (and
      their representatives, including the Istari).

      Read the full essay here:

      http://www.merp.com/essays/MichaelMartinez/copy_of_hobbitryinarmchairs

      --
      Michael Martinez
      Author of Understanding Middle-earth, Parma Endorion, and Visualizing
      Middle-earth
      http://www.michael-martinez.com/
    • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
      Thanks! The folk of ME don t talk much about Eru or the Valar, even less than we talk about the air (but we do, as weather, pollen, etc.) or gravity. But they
      Message 2 of 3 , Apr 26, 2005
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        Thanks!

        The folk of ME don't talk much about Eru or the Valar, even less than we
        talk about the air (but we do, as weather, pollen, etc.) or gravity. But
        they are there nonetheless.

        Lizzie

        Elizabeth Apgar Triano
        lizziewriter@...
        amor vincit omnia
        www.lizziewriter.com
        www.danburymineralogicalsociety.org


        > [Original Message]
        > From: Michael Martinez <Michaelm@...>
        > To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
        > Date: 4/25/2005 10:25:16 PM
        > Subject: [mythsoc] MERP essay - Hobbitry-in-Armchairs: Philandering
        Tolkien's Philology
        >
        >
        >
        > I thought some of you might enjoy this (or, maybe, enjoy taking me to
        > task for it). I am trying to check the list 2-3 times a week, so
        > please be patient if anyone follows up and I don't reply immediately.
        >
      • Michael Martinez
        ... Paul Kocher, in MASTER OF MIDDLE-EARTH, noted that one is as likely to be told what the weather was like on a given day in THE LORD OF THE RINGS as
        Message 3 of 3 , Apr 27, 2005
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          --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Elizabeth Apgar Triano"
          <lizziewriter@e...> wrote:
          >
          > Thanks!
          >
          > The folk of ME don't talk much about Eru or the Valar, even
          > less than we talk about the air (but we do, as weather,
          > pollen, etc.) or gravity. But they are there nonetheless.

          Paul Kocher, in MASTER OF MIDDLE-EARTH, noted that one is as likely
          to be told what the weather was like on a given day in THE LORD OF
          THE RINGS as anything else. And yet hardly do the characters seem to
          speak of it, except when "there are fell voices are on the air".

          We take much for granted, without asking whether it was indeed
          granted or earned or stolen or perhaps merely lost by the wayside.

          Now, if we could only tie the Witch of Endor to, say, Thuringwethil.
          But I am curious about something. When Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli
          meet Eomer and the Riders of Rohan, Eomer addresses them in Rohirric,
          which only Aragorn speaks (apparently). Does the requirement that
          travelers in Rohan (at that time) speak Rohirric count as a
          shibboleth?

          --
          Michael Martinez
          Author of Understanding Middle-earth, Parma Endorion, and Visualizing
          Middle-earth
          http://www.michael-martinez.com/
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