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Minas Tirith and Constantinople

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  • Stolzi
    Even as a young schoolboy, I couldn t help noticing the uncanny resemblance between the siege of Minas Tirith in Tolkien s Lord of the Rings and the siege of
    Message 1 of 14 , Jul 6, 2006
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      'Even as a young schoolboy, I couldn't help noticing the uncanny resemblance
      between the siege of Minas Tirith in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and the
      siege of Constantinople. On one side, the beautiful walled city with its
      ancient nobility and the few adventurers who had come to help in its
      defence; on the other, evil teeming hordes under a despotic ruler. You had
      only to look at the map in the end-papers, where the land of Mordor loomed
      to the east like Asia Minor, to get the point.

      'Tolkien even chose the name "Uruk-Hai" for some of his nastiest creations,
      fighting forces of Sauron who were a cross between orcs and goblins. This
      was surely borrowed from the "Yuruk", nomadic tribesmen used as auxiliary
      soldiers by the Ottomans. Few readers would have known that; but most would
      have got a whiff of something Asiatic here. For one thing Tolkien was
      outstandingly good at was tapping into the subconscious of our own,
      European, cultural history.'



      The rest is all about the history of Constantinople; this is the only
      Tolkien reference.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2005/09/25/bocro25.xml&sSheet=/arts/2005/09/25/bomain.html

      Diamond Proudbrook
    • Jason Fisher
      ... I ve been working on a research paper (which, actually, may very possibly become an entire book-length monograph) connecting Tolkien to (apparent) Semitic
      Message 2 of 14 , Jul 6, 2006
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        > 'Tolkien even chose the name "Uruk-Hai" for some of his nastiest creations,
        > fighting forces of Sauron who were a cross between orcs and goblins. This
        > was surely borrowed from the "Yuruk", nomadic tribesmen used as auxiliary
        > soldiers by the Ottomans. Few readers would have known that; but most would
        > have got a whiff of something Asiatic here. For one thing Tolkien was
        > outstandingly good at was tapping into the subconscious of our own,
        > European, cultural history.'

        I've been working on a research paper (which, actually, may very possibly become an entire book-length monograph) connecting Tolkien to (apparent) Semitic influences -- of which there are a surprising number -- and I've begun to speculate that Uruk(-Hai) may have been connected to the Sumerian city of Uruk (cf. Gilgamesh *). And for another nice connection that came up during my research, the Biblical name for Uruk was Erech -- which opens up a curious line of questioning on the Stone of Erech (also in the east of Middle-earth). In Hebrew, the etymology of Erech is "to extract, to draw out," which dovetails nicely with the summoning of the Oathbreakers in RotK.

        Interesting stuff. I'll let everyone know when / if publication is imminent. I've delivered some of this material in talks already, and I'm working on putting it all together in my leisure time (what little I have of that precious commodity :).

        Jason

        * And indeed, as I said, there's much more just with Gilgamesh alone (not to mention other Semitic sources, both literary and linguistic). For example, the "civilizing" of Enkidu by Gilgamesh reminds me of Finrod's first encounter with the Atani. And in Enkidu, one also can't help but think of the Drúedain. And on it goes ...
      • Carl F. Hostetter
        ... A line of questioning Tolkien himself addressed in Letter 297: Since naturally, as one interested in antiquity and notably in the history of languages and
        Message 3 of 14 , Jul 6, 2006
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          On Jul 6, 2006, at 11:45 AM, Jason Fisher wrote:

          > I've begun to speculate that Uruk(-Hai) may have been connected to
          > the Sumerian city of Uruk (cf. Gilgamesh *). And for another nice
          > connection that came up during my research, the Biblical name for
          > Uruk was Erech -- which opens up a curious line of questioning on
          > the Stone of Erech (also in the east of Middle-earth).
          A line of questioning Tolkien himself addressed in Letter 297:

          "Since naturally, as one interested in antiquity and notably in the
          history of languages and writing', I knew and had read a good deal
          about Mesopotamia, I must have known _Erech_ the name of that most
          ancient city. Nonetheless at the time of writing _L[ord of the ]R
          [ings]_ Book V chs. II and IX ... and devsing a legend to provide for
          the separation of Aragorn from Gandalf, and his disappearance and
          unexpected return, I was probably more influenced by the important
          element ER (in Elvish) = 'one, single, alone'. In any case the fact
          that _Erech_ is a famous name is of _no_ importance to _The L.R._,
          and no connexions in my mind or intention between Mesopotamia and the
          Númenóreans or their predecessors can be deduced."

          As for the claim that "the name "Uruk-Hai" ... was surely borrowed
          from the "Yuruk", nomadic tribesmen used as auxiliary soldiers by the
          Ottomans", this is in fact not at all "sure", and indeed is
          exceedingly unlikely, as also is any connection between the Uruk-Hai
          and Sumerian Uruk. Indeed, the apparent "source" of _uruk_ is much
          closer to hand: the word "orc" itself, which Tolkien seems to have
          devised Black Speech _uruk_ (and Quenya _orko_ and Sindarin _orch_)
          deliberately to resemble, as perhaps the lost "source" of the Old
          English word from which Tolkien derived the word "orc" from: "Orcs
          (the word is as far as I am concerned actually derived from Old
          English _orc_ 'demon', but only because of phonetic
          suitability)" (Letter 144). That is, Tolkien (re-)used "orc" because
          it seemed fitting to his linguistic aesthetic as the name of the
          demonic antagonist slave-race of Dark Minions; and he adapted this
          suitable-sounding name still further to his aesthetic in the Eldarin
          base _(o)rok_ 'anything that caused fear and/or horror' (MR:413),
          whence Quenya _orko_, pl. _orkor_; Sindarin _orch_, pl. _yrch_ (hence
          Legolas's howler), and (apparently) Black Speech _uruk_. What's more,
          a sense-suitable association of this sort existed in Tolkien's elvish
          vocabulary long before the _Uruk-Hai_ arose in the _legendarium_: cf.
          the bases ÓROK- 'goblin' (whence Q _orko_ etc.) and RUK-
          'demon' (whence _Balrog_) in the c. 1937 _Etymologies_; and even
          earlier still, the entries _Ork_ (stem _orq-_) 'monster, ogre, demon'
          and _orqindi_ 'ogresse' in the c. 1915 "Qenya Lexicon": i.e., right
          from the earliest beginnings of Tolkien Elvish languages.
        • John D Rateliff
          Does anyone know anything about a book called MERE HUMANITY: G. K. CHESTERTON, C. S. LEWIS, AND J. R. R. TOLKIEN ON THE HUMAN CONDITION by Donald T. Williams?
          Message 4 of 14 , Jul 6, 2006
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            Does anyone know anything about a book called MERE HUMANITY: G. K.
            CHESTERTON, C. S. LEWIS, AND J. R. R. TOLKIEN ON THE HUMAN CONDITION
            by Donald T. Williams? Apparently it came out in February, but the
            only reader review on amazon.com is singularly unhelpful, being
            written by someone who admits to not having read the book. My gut
            instinct is that a book that tries to cover Chesterton, Lewis, AND
            Tolkien all in 212 pages will have a hard time going justice to any
            of them, but you never know.

            Also, has anyone looked at Joseph Pearce's new(ish) book, LITERARY
            GIANTS, LITERARY CATHOLICS? He seems to cast his net very wide, if
            the readers' reviews are to be trusted, and apparently discusses both
            "the role that the 'true North' as opposed to a false 'Protestant'
            North plays in Tolkien's works" (??) and "the role of Christian
            orthodoxy" in the writings of JRRT, CSL, Charles Wms, and Owen
            Barfield --the last two of which are, of course, not orthodox by any
            definition I'm aware of.

            THE TOLKIEN ENCYCLOPEDIA, due out in about three months, now has a
            pre-order entry on amazon; at $175 it'll make quite a dent in the
            budget. Think it must be the most expensive book about Tolkien yet.
          • Stolzi
            ... From: Carl F. Hostetter As for the claim that the name Uruk-Hai ... was surely borrowed from the Yuruk , nomadic tribesmen used as auxiliary soldiers
            Message 5 of 14 , Jul 6, 2006
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              ----- Original Message -----
              From: Carl F. Hostetter

              As for the claim that "the name "Uruk-Hai" ... was surely borrowed
              from the "Yuruk", nomadic tribesmen used as auxiliary soldiers by the
              Ottomans", this is in fact not at all "sure", and indeed is
              exceedingly unlikely, as also is any connection between the Uruk-Hai
              and Sumerian Uruk.
              ---------------------------------

              Actually, I thought that too. But some of the wider similarities between
              Minas Tirith's siege and Constantinople's fall were interesting to
              contemplate.

              Diamond Proudbrook
            • Stolzi
              ... From: John D Rateliff Does anyone know anything about a book called MERE HUMANITY: G. K. CHESTERTON, C. S. LEWIS, AND J. R. R. TOLKIEN ON THE HUMAN
              Message 6 of 14 , Jul 6, 2006
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                ----- Original Message -----
                From: John D Rateliff


                Does anyone know anything about a book called MERE HUMANITY: G. K.
                CHESTERTON, C. S. LEWIS, AND J. R. R. TOLKIEN ON THE HUMAN CONDITION
                by Donald T. Williams? Apparently it came out in February, but the
                only reader review on amazon.com is singularly unhelpful, being
                written by someone who admits to not having read the book. My gut
                instinct is that a book that tries to cover Chesterton, Lewis, AND
                Tolkien all in 212 pages will have a hard time going justice to any
                of them, but you never know.

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

                MERE HUMANITY was reviewed recently (this month or maybe last) in the
                Society's publication MYTHPRINT, by someone who =had= read it (Ruby Dunlap).

                Diamond Proudbrook
              • SBolding
                Interesting connection. I had never thought of that link before. It feeds into the overall view of the LOTR as one of Western civilization against the pagan,
                Message 7 of 14 , Jul 7, 2006
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                  Interesting connection. I had never thought of that
                  link before. It feeds into the overall view of the
                  LOTR as one of Western civilization against the pagan,
                  heathen hoards. Brings to mind the fall/sacking of
                  Rome too.
                  __________
                  Stolzi:
                  'Even as a young schoolboy, I couldn't help noticing
                  the uncanny resemblance between the siege of Minas
                  Tirith in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and the siege of
                  Constantinople. On one side, the beautiful walled city
                  with its ancient nobility and the few adventurers who
                  had come to help in its defence; on the other, evil
                  teeming hordes under a despotic ruler. You had only to
                  look at the map in the end-papers, where the land of
                  Mordor loomed
                  to the east like Asia Minor, to get the point.

                  'Tolkien even chose the name "Uruk-Hai" for some of
                  his nastiest creations, fighting forces of Sauron who
                  were a cross between orcs and goblins. This
                  was surely borrowed from the "Yuruk", nomadic
                  tribesmen used as auxiliary soldiers by the Ottomans.
                  Few readers would have known that; but most would
                  have got a whiff of something Asiatic here. For one
                  thing Tolkien was outstandingly good at was tapping
                  into the subconscious of our own, European, cultural
                  history.'


                  "The worm thinks it strange and foolish
                  that man does not eat his books."
                  Rabindranath Tagore

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                • John D Rateliff
                  ... So it was: MYTHPRINT #290/291 (May/June 06), pages 13-14. Thanks for pointing this out to me; I d missed it. [Non-text portions of this message have been
                  Message 8 of 14 , Jul 7, 2006
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                    On Jul 6, 2006, at 4:13 PM, Stolzi wrote:
                    > MERE HUMANITY was reviewed recently (this month or maybe last) in the
                    > Society's publication MYTHPRINT, by someone who =had= read it (Ruby
                    > Dunlap).

                    So it was: MYTHPRINT #290/291 (May/June 06), pages 13-14. Thanks for
                    pointing this out to me; I'd missed it.



                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Stolzi
                    Hey, it s what we re here for :) DP ... From: John D Rateliff So it was: MYTHPRINT #290/291 (May/June 06), pages 13-14. Thanks for pointing this out to me; I d
                    Message 9 of 14 , Jul 7, 2006
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                      Hey, it's what we're here for :)

                      DP

                      ----- Original Message -----
                      From: John D Rateliff


                      So it was: MYTHPRINT #290/291 (May/June 06), pages 13-14. Thanks for
                      pointing this out to me; I'd missed it.
                    • Jason Fisher
                      ... Ack! I hadn t come across that yet. There wasn t an entry for Uruk (or Erech) in my copy of Letters, so I d missed it on my initial (quick) survey. So just
                      Message 10 of 14 , Jul 10, 2006
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                        > [Carl F. Hostetter wrote]
                        > A line of questioning Tolkien himself addressed in Letter 297:

                        Ack! I hadn't come across that yet. There wasn't an entry for Uruk (or Erech) in my copy of Letters, so I'd missed it on my initial (quick) survey. So just out of curiosity, after your astute reply, I took a look at the Hammond/Scull expanded index to the letters (I don't have the updated copy myself, but one can browse through the complete index on Amazon.com): Uruk still isn't in there, but Erech is. :)

                        Thanks for pointing this out, Carl.

                        Jason
                      • Joan.Marie.Verba@sff.net
                        I remember a paper delivered at the 1987 Mythcon in Milwaukee on this subject. Does anyone else? Joan
                        Message 11 of 14 , Jul 10, 2006
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                          I remember a paper delivered at the 1987 Mythcon in Milwaukee on this subject.
                          Does anyone else?

                          Joan
                        • John D Rateliff
                          Mentioned this to a few people recently who I thought would already know about it and found they didn t, so sharing the news here that the earlier version of
                          Message 12 of 14 , Jul 26, 2006
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                            Mentioned this to a few people recently who I thought would already
                            know about it and found they didn't, so sharing the news here that
                            the earlier version of the SHADOWLANDS movie is now available on dvd.
                            It's been renamed THROUGH THE SHADOWLANDS, presumably so folks won't
                            confuse it with the remake starting Anthony Hopkins and Deborah
                            Winger. Recommended. Josh Ackland is a far better Lewis than Hopkins,
                            far less passive, and the guy they have playing Warnie is amazingly
                            good. Claire Bloom isn't as good a Joy Gresham as Winger--too sweet
                            and ethereal rather than energetic and brassy--but otherwise it's the
                            better of the two films.

                            --JDR
                          • John D Rateliff
                            Heard the following update yesterday, courtesy of Kristin Thompson and Richard West, so thought I d share for those interested in the upcoming Pullman film.
                            Message 13 of 14 , Aug 1 9:29 AM
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                              Heard the following update yesterday, courtesy of Kristin Thompson
                              and Richard West, so thought I'd share for those interested in the
                              upcoming Pullman film.
                              --JDR

                              ........................................................................
                              .......
                              [[source: VARIETY]]

                              Posted: Sun., Jul. 30, 2006, 6:13pm PT

                              Another 'Compass' point

                              New Kidman gig's 'Golden'

                              By DAVE MCNARY


                              Nicole Kidman will star in New Line's "The Golden Compass," portraying
                              the villainous and glamorous Mrs. Coulter.

                              Shooting on the $150 million production, based on the first part of
                              Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, is set for September
                              at London's Shepperton Studios.

                              Chris Weitz is directing from his own script. Brit newcomer Dakota
                              Blue Richards has already been cast for the lead role of Lyra
                              Belacqua, who travels to a parallel universe to battle the forces of
                              evil and rescue her best friend.

                              Scholastic Media's Deborah Forte is producing with Bill Carraro. New
                              Line has staked out a release date of Nov. 16, 2007.

                              Kidman's Blossom Films signed a three-year, first-look feature film
                              production deal earlier this year with 20th Century Fox and Fox 2000.
                              Upcoming films include an untitled pic with Jennifer Jason Leigh for
                              director Noah Baumbach; "Fur," a biopic of photographer Diane Arbus;
                              Warner Bros. horror pic "The Visiting"; and Warner toon "Happy Feet."
                              ------- End of forwarded message -------
                            • John D Rateliff
                              Came across something the other day I thought I d share: think I now have an answer to my earlier question of why Lindskoog at one point advanced the argument
                              Message 14 of 14 , Aug 10 9:56 PM
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                                Came across something the other day I thought I'd share: think I now
                                have an answer to my earlier question of why Lindskoog at one point
                                advanced the argument that "The Dark Tower" was written in the 1950s.
                                I was looking up something else in SLEUTHING C. S. LEWIS, which is
                                not an easy book to reference, and think I picked out the sequence
                                (my thanks to Joe Christopher for suggesting to me that the answer to
                                why Jared Lobdell had fixed on such a date was in this volume
                                somewhere). On pages 108-109 she claims that an official from the
                                British Library went to the Bodleian to look at "The Man Born Blind"
                                and later wrote her that the manuscript was written in "a light blue
                                ink that was not available until 1950". The next time she refers to
                                this blue ink, she has transferred it from the short story to the
                                novel fragment THE DARK TOWER (page 304, 376). I think this must
                                underlie her "Florence Jacobsen" scenario, the claim that the book
                                originated as a round-robin story to which Lewis contributed (page
                                267). That's all I cd turn up, aside from a reference to Douglas
                                Gresham's claim, according to Lindskoog, that DT was written in 1958
                                (page 228; see also 286-287); if he offered any evidence, she does
                                not report it.
                                I also discovered that she didn't believe CSL wrote Tolkien's
                                obituary, but I have no idea why; her references were too oblique.

                                --JDR
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