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Re: [mythsoc] Re: mythology for England

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  • "Beregond. Anders Stenström"
    ... Right; and so in Tolkien s works. ... That is a point. The historical meaning of _legendarium_ is, I think, a collection of saints lives . But I suppose
    Message 1 of 28 , Dec 1, 2006
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      Larry Swain wrote:

      > Delighted that you've delurked! I think the problem lies in our
      > definitions and nomenclature. For example, do we call the Bible
      > "mythology" or legendarium? The sagas? Beowulf? The Eddas? The Aeneid or
      > Odyssey? All of these larger works include aspects that are "strictly"
      > mythological in a narrow, literary sense, and things that are legendary
      > in a narrow, literary sense, things that are historical, and the thing
      > is that all these mythological, legendary, historical, and narrative
      > elements not only simply exist side by side in a particular work or
      > collection of works, but at the same time flow in and out of one another
      > consistently.

      Right; and so in Tolkien's works.

      > As unsatisfactory in some ways as calling Tolkien's Middle
      > Earth works a "mythology" is, I'm not sure that calling it a
      > "legendarium" really works any better.

      That is a point. The historical meaning of _legendarium_ is,
      I think, 'a collection of saints' lives'. But I suppose the word
      is now so exotic that that sense does not interfere much, while
      it sounds fitting as a label for the kind of thing Tolkien
      produced. It works better than _mythology_ by being unfamiliar: it
      makes fewer false suggestions. If it overemphasizes the legendary
      element, well, that is a point against _legendarium_, but not a
      point in favour of _mythology_.
      Another of Tolkien's terms for what he did, that I also like
      to use, is _feigned history_; it is in fact on the whole more
      historical than legendary in kind.
      (There is also the word _matter_, as in the "Matters" of Rome,
      Britain, and Charlemagne; but it is perhaps a bit awkward.)

      I also repeat my question: if we use _mythology_ about the
      legendarium, what word do we use about the mythology? Tolkien's
      whatchamacallit contains a lot of mythology (both in chunks and
      blended into the rest), and I think we will want to talk about
      that and will need the word for that purpose.

      Chivalrously,

      Beregond
    • Wayne G. Hammond
      ... I m afraid that I have a problem accepting that the placing of a phrase in quotation marks in an index, indeed buried in an index as a
      Message 2 of 28 , Dec 1, 2006
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        Jason wrote:

        > But how did Carpenter’s term become the
        > Tolkien misquote that it is today? Anders Stenström lays
        > out a convincing reconstruction of how it may have hap-
        > pened, the key point being the misapplication of single
        > quotation marks to the term in the biography’s index
        > (whether Carpenter’s or the publisher’s doing, we do not
        > know). Because the term was shown in quotation marks,
        > like the one other (legitimate) Tolkien quote referenced
        > in the index, it was subsequently accepted by many as a
        > bona fide quotation and not an invention.
        > But while Tolkien may never have put down this exact
        > phrase, we can be relatively certain he would have accepted
        > it, just as we can be sure that the creation of a so-called
        > mythology for England was indeed one of his early goals ....

        I'm afraid that I have a problem accepting that the placing of a phrase in
        quotation marks in an index, indeed buried in an index as a
        sub-sub-sub-reference, could cause readers -- who as a rule don't take much
        notice of indexes except at need -- to take it as Tolkien's own words. I
        would say, rather, that Carpenter's coinage proved so apt that one can't
        help but repeat it.

        In regard to the certainty of "a mythology for England" as one of Tolkien's
        early goals -- "early" being a relative term -- Carpenter in the Biography
        (p. 59 of the first edition) at first cautiously suggests that "perhaps"
        Tolkien was already thinking of it while an Oxford undergraduate, and later
        writes of it more as a matter of fact. The basis of his first comment,
        however, is a paper on the Kalevala that Tolkien read to college societies
        at Oxford, in which he refers to the mythology found in the Finnish poems.
        Carpenter quoted: "'These mythological ballads,' he said, 'are full of that
        very primitive undergrowth that the literature of Europe has on the whole
        been steadily cutting and reducing for many centuries with different and
        earlier completeness among different people.' And he added: 'I would that
        we had more of it left -- something of the same sort that belonged to the
        English.'"

        "The implication", Christina has written, "is that these words come from
        the paper that Tolkien wrote and delivered at Oxford in 1914 and 1915 --
        words which have been frequently quoted in association with the earliest
        poems of his 'Silmarillion' mythology, and as written before he commenced
        The Book of Lost Tales in which the history of the Elves has close ties
        with England. Although a variant of his first sentence ('These mythological
        ballads . . .') is in the paper as first written, the second ['I would that
        we had more . . .']" appears only in a revised version of most of his
        Kalevala lecture which Tolkien made in the early 1920s and delivered
        probably to an audience at Leeds -- "after Tolkien had written and
        abandoned The Book of Lost Tales. He may, then, have thought about creating
        a 'mythology for England' in 1914, but he did not write 'I would that we
        had more of it left -- something of the same sort that belonged to the
        English' until nearly a decade later" (The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and
        Guide, vol. 2, p. 441, based on study of Tolkien's Kalevala papers at the
        Bodleian).

        Beregond wrote:

        >But _mythology_ in a central sense refers to what Tolkien here
        >calls "the large and cosmogonic" (and in 27 of the 54 instances in
        >_Letters_ he seems to be using the term with that reference).
        >Tolkien's mythology, in this sense, is an essential and highly
        >interesting element of his legendarium. If we use _mythology_ about
        >the legendarium, what word do we use about the mythology?

        "Mythology" will do for both, if understood in context.

        Wayne Hammond


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • auricdor
        Heh. Sir, you ve caught me out. The fact that the story is a fictionalization hasn t kept me from attempting to adhere to as many factual aspects of my chosen
        Message 3 of 28 , Dec 1, 2006
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          Heh. Sir, you've caught me out.

          The fact that the story is a fictionalization hasn't kept me from
          attempting to adhere to as many factual aspects of my chosen
          protagonists as I could manage - however, as you point out, my
          presentation of his abilities (at that point in his life) was clumsily
          worded.

          I'd compressed certain aspects of his academic attitudes and
          performance (as I'd interpreted them), and re-presented them in my
          fictional version - but I think you're dead on with your specific
          criticism. All I can guess (at this point, nearing completion of the
          second book), is that for that moment in the story, I was serving the
          immediate dramatic purpose more than thinking of the fidelity of a
          straight presentation of real facts.

          Certainly, I'd never intended to have the book taken as academic in
          any way - my H.G. Wells is ENTIRELY fictionalized, for example, at a
          time HE was still living as well - and to that end have gently pointed
          out that my story is more about John, Jack, and Charles, than it is
          Tolkien, Lewis, and Williams (if you see my distinction). And I did
          telegraph this in the first chapter, by having them retire to 221B
          Baker Street - which does not, in fact, exist.

          Still, I regret that you didn't enjoy my book, and I hope that you'll
          give the next one a look come October, to see if it might better suit
          your taste.

          Best regards,

          James A. Owen





          --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, John D Rateliff <sacnoth@...> wrote:
          >
          > Earlier this week saw that a new book I'd been on the look-out for is
          > finally on the shelves: THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF BEOWULF, CHAMPION
          > OF MIDDLE EARTH, edited by Brian Thomsen, who is probably best-known
          > to folks here as compiler of HALFLINGS, HOBBITS, WARROWS & WEEFOLK.
          > This collection reprints an old 19th century translation of BEOWULF
          > along with four new stories of B's "futher adventures"--think of
          > these as "Beowulf: The Lost Episodes", two of which are by friends of
          > mine (Wolfgang Baur and Jeff Grubb; the other two are by Ed Greenwood
          > and Lynn Abbey). However, interspersed between each story is a
          > snippet from Thomsen's framing story, about a visit by Guy Burgess to
          > Tolkien in 1936, with the notorious spy attempting to recruit JRRT
          > for his network. From the quick glance I took at it it looks as if
          > there's a pretty significant historical glitch, in that Burgess seems
          > to be representing the Nazis here while in real life he was a
          > Communist mole within the British intelligentsia and intelligence
          > service. But even that pales for me against the magnitude of the
          > blunder in Owen's HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS where JRRT at one point has
          > to admit, shamefaced, that he can't actually read Old English or even
          > Latin because he cdn't see the point of learning dead languages when
          > there was a war going on. That pretty much sunk Owen to the bottom of
          > the barrel for me, along with the recent spate of books portraying
          > Conan Doyle as Holmes-like. I assume that at some point someone's
          > going to use JRRT as a character or supporting character and more or
          > less get it right, but looks like we'll have to wade through a lake
          > of dreck to get there.
          >
          > --JRRT
          >
        • John D Rateliff
          Hi James. Welcome to the list. Sorry for my earlier bluntness. Having now seen the interview on TheOneRing, I see that this isn t a story about Tolkien, Lewis,
          Message 4 of 28 , Dec 1, 2006
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            Hi James. Welcome to the list.
            Sorry for my earlier bluntness. Having now seen the interview on
            TheOneRing, I see that this isn't a story about Tolkien, Lewis, &
            Williams at all but fantasy-world analogues to them, which is quite a
            different thing, more like Kreeft's BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL. If I'd
            understood that up-front when reading the book, I think my reaction
            would have been different -- I know I wasn't put out by Orson Scott
            Card's fantastically unfaithful take on Wm Blake in RED PROPHET
            because it was clear from the start that this wasn't just alternate
            history but outright fantasy disguised as alternate history and thus
            the character wd probably not correspond to the real Blake in any
            significant way.
            I really wasn't able to read HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS as a fantasy
            novel because the real-world analogues got in my way and prevented me
            for achieving "secondary belief", and I'd love to hear from someone
            who was able to approach it without those preconceptions and just
            read and enjoyed it as fiction. I know I did think the Noah chapter
            was the best part, and think I'd have liked the book more if it'd
            dropped the bridge from our world and just done more of the
            SILVERLOCK thing of fictional characters from different works and
            genres interacting. But perhaps that would have strayed too far from
            yr initial intent.
            Anyway, congratulations on the movie deal and good luck on the
            remaining books in the series.
            --JDR


            On Dec 1, 2006, at 9:09 PM, auricdor wrote:
            > Heh. Sir, you've caught me out.
            >
            > The fact that the story is a fictionalization hasn't kept me from
            > attempting to adhere to as many factual aspects of my chosen
            > protagonists as I could manage - however, as you point out, my
            > presentation of his abilities (at that point in his life) was clumsily
            > worded.
            >
            > I'd compressed certain aspects of his academic attitudes and
            > performance (as I'd interpreted them), and re-presented them in my
            > fictional version - but I think you're dead on with your specific
            > criticism. All I can guess (at this point, nearing completion of the
            > second book), is that for that moment in the story, I was serving the
            > immediate dramatic purpose more than thinking of the fidelity of a
            > straight presentation of real facts.
            >
            > Certainly, I'd never intended to have the book taken as academic in
            > any way - my H.G. Wells is ENTIRELY fictionalized, for example, at a
            > time HE was still living as well - and to that end have gently pointed
            > out that my story is more about John, Jack, and Charles, than it is
            > Tolkien, Lewis, and Williams (if you see my distinction). And I did
            > telegraph this in the first chapter, by having them retire to 221B
            > Baker Street - which does not, in fact, exist.
            >
            > Still, I regret that you didn't enjoy my book, and I hope that you'll
            > give the next one a look come October, to see if it might better suit
            > your taste.
            >
            > Best regards,
            >
            > James A. Owen
          • auricdor
            Hi John - Thanks - and no worries. I like your analogies a lot, particularly mentioning Scott Card s take on Blake. (I actually illustrated a short story of
            Message 5 of 28 , Dec 2, 2006
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              Hi John -

              Thanks - and no worries.

              I like your analogies a lot, particularly mentioning Scott Card's take
              on Blake. (I actually illustrated a short story of his set in that
              same world, for his online magazine Intergalactic Medicine Show,
              depicting Abraham Lincoln meeting Alvin Maker).

              http://www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com/cgi-bin/mag.cgi?do=issue&vol=i2

              My editor wanted to name my protagonists on the front cover (Lord love
              him), and I resisted mightily. (To be fair, the publicity about their
              identities is selling a lot of books. And the fact that the film
              producer made the Harry Potter films made for a press release 'perfect
              storm' that has reulted in around eleven thousand emails in two months.)

              I held out so that most readers COULD read it without the preconceived
              notions of who they were. Someone (such as yourself, and actually,
              quite a few readers) could discern it early in the text. But as MANY
              people do not know Charles at all, and would not have caught 'Jack' as
              Lewis, or even John (a deliberate choice on my part to call him that,
              rather than his preference of Ronald), I've been able to serve the
              original purpose of building the story and then giving readers a
              surprise in the end.

              (Another tipoff of intent was Wells being the Time Traveler from his
              book, and Aven being Weena's daughter.)

              The new challenge has been writing the next book, now that everyone
              knows who my protagonists are. It takes place in 1926 (a date notable
              to Inklings aficionados), and largely involves John's predecessor -
              James Barrie. And if you enjoyed the Noah chapter, I think you'll like
              the parts I've just written dealing with Dante.

              Book Three takes place in 1931. And if you think the responses to my
              'Charles' character were unique, wait until the readers meet Hugo
              Dyson.(!)


              James







              --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, John D Rateliff <sacnoth@...> wrote:
              >
              > Hi James. Welcome to the list.
              > Sorry for my earlier bluntness. Having now seen the interview on
              > TheOneRing, I see that this isn't a story about Tolkien, Lewis, &
              > Williams at all but fantasy-world analogues to them, which is quite a
              > different thing, more like Kreeft's BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL. If I'd
              > understood that up-front when reading the book, I think my reaction
              > would have been different -- I know I wasn't put out by Orson Scott
              > Card's fantastically unfaithful take on Wm Blake in RED PROPHET
              > because it was clear from the start that this wasn't just alternate
              > history but outright fantasy disguised as alternate history and thus
              > the character wd probably not correspond to the real Blake in any
              > significant way.
              > I really wasn't able to read HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS as a fantasy
              > novel because the real-world analogues got in my way and prevented me
              > for achieving "secondary belief", and I'd love to hear from someone
              > who was able to approach it without those preconceptions and just
              > read and enjoyed it as fiction. I know I did think the Noah chapter
              > was the best part, and think I'd have liked the book more if it'd
              > dropped the bridge from our world and just done more of the
              > SILVERLOCK thing of fictional characters from different works and
              > genres interacting. But perhaps that would have strayed too far from
              > yr initial intent.
              > Anyway, congratulations on the movie deal and good luck on the
              > remaining books in the series.
              > --JDR
              >
              >
              > On Dec 1, 2006, at 9:09 PM, auricdor wrote:
              > > Heh. Sir, you've caught me out.
              > >
              > > The fact that the story is a fictionalization hasn't kept me from
              > > attempting to adhere to as many factual aspects of my chosen
              > > protagonists as I could manage - however, as you point out, my
              > > presentation of his abilities (at that point in his life) was clumsily
              > > worded.
              > >
              > > I'd compressed certain aspects of his academic attitudes and
              > > performance (as I'd interpreted them), and re-presented them in my
              > > fictional version - but I think you're dead on with your specific
              > > criticism. All I can guess (at this point, nearing completion of the
              > > second book), is that for that moment in the story, I was serving the
              > > immediate dramatic purpose more than thinking of the fidelity of a
              > > straight presentation of real facts.
              > >
              > > Certainly, I'd never intended to have the book taken as academic in
              > > any way - my H.G. Wells is ENTIRELY fictionalized, for example, at a
              > > time HE was still living as well - and to that end have gently pointed
              > > out that my story is more about John, Jack, and Charles, than it is
              > > Tolkien, Lewis, and Williams (if you see my distinction). And I did
              > > telegraph this in the first chapter, by having them retire to 221B
              > > Baker Street - which does not, in fact, exist.
              > >
              > > Still, I regret that you didn't enjoy my book, and I hope that you'll
              > > give the next one a look come October, to see if it might better suit
              > > your taste.
              > >
              > > Best regards,
              > >
              > > James A. Owen
              >
            • Walter Padgett
              Hello: ... Yes. I agree, Mr. Hammond, But it is the context which is so complex. For anyone to use the term myth or any of it s related terms, ie. mythic,
              Message 6 of 28 , Dec 2, 2006
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                Hello:

                On 12/1/06, Wayne G. Hammond <Wayne.G.Hammond@...> wrote:
                >
                > ...


                ... He may, then, have thought about creating
                > a 'mythology for England' in 1914, but he did not write 'I would that we
                > had more of it left -- something of the same sort that belonged to the
                > English' until nearly a decade later" (The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and
                > Guide, vol. 2, p. 441, based on study of Tolkien's Kalevala papers at the
                > Bodleian).
                >
                >Beregond (Stenstrom [sic]) wrote:
                >
                > >But _mythology_ in a central sense refers to what Tolkien here
                > >calls "the large and cosmogonic" (and in 27 of the 54 instances in
                > >_Letters_ he seems to be using the term with that reference).
                > >Tolkien's mythology, in this sense, is an essential and highly
                > >interesting element of his legendarium. If we use _mythology_ about
                > >the legendarium, what word do we use about the mythology?
                >
                > "Mythology" will do for both, if understood in context.
                >
                > Wayne Hammond
                >


                Yes. I agree, Mr. Hammond,

                But it is the context which is so complex.

                For anyone to use the term "myth" or any of it's related terms, ie.
                mythic, mythological, mythopoeic, etc., in relation to Tolkien's
                Silmarillion has become problematic.

                It's like the tower of Babel story.

                We all use the same words but mean different things, because of
                contextual, or metacontextual (better), disjunctions.

                There is no common ground for an understanding of this ancient term.

                It should be relegated to the archaic.

                Thanks, Walter.
              • Wayne G. Hammond
                ... Three brief responses to this come to mind. 1) A good writer will be able to convey clearly the meaning of myth, mythology etc. -- or of any other term --
                Message 7 of 28 , Dec 2, 2006
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                  Walter wrote, in regard to mythology:

                  >There is no common ground for an understanding of this ancient term.
                  >
                  >It should be relegated to the archaic.

                  Three brief responses to this come to mind.

                  1) A good writer will be able to convey clearly the meaning of myth,
                  mythology etc. -- or of any other term -- as he or she wishes it to be
                  understood in a particular context.

                  2) If what you suggest for mythology were applied to all such "ancient
                  terms", our vocabulary would be much reduced.

                  3) If the word was good enough for Tolkien, it's good enough for me.

                  Wayne


                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Larry Swain
                  ... Well, not exotic for some of us..... It works better than _mythology_ by being unfamiliar: it ... I m not convinced this is true though. If it
                  Message 8 of 28 , Dec 4, 2006
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                    Beregond wrote:

                    > That is a point. The historical meaning of _legendarium_ is,
                    > I think, 'a collection of saints' lives'. But I suppose the word
                    > is now so exotic that that sense does not interfere much, while
                    > it sounds fitting as a label for the kind of thing Tolkien
                    > produced.

                    Well, not exotic for some of us.....


                    It works better than _mythology_ by being unfamiliar: it
                    > makes fewer false suggestions.

                    I'm not convinced this is true though.

                    If it overemphasizes the legendary
                    > element, well, that is a point against _legendarium_, but not a
                    > point in favour of _mythology_.


                    Agreed, my point being that replacing one unsatisfactory and misleading term with another unsatisfactory and misleading one (even if misleading by some degrees less than the former) isn't really all that satisfactory.

                    > Another of Tolkien's terms for what he did, that I also like
                    > to use, is _feigned history_; it is in fact on the whole more
                    > historical than legendary in kind.
                    > (There is also the word _matter_, as in the "Matters" of Rome,
                    > Britain, and Charlemagne; but it is perhaps a bit awkward.)

                    I like "Matter" in fact, the Matter of Middle Earth has a nice alliterative quality, is descriptive, and I think gets at the various genres and kinds of things that are in Tolkien's writings than anything else--and can be stretched a little to include the modern elements as it has in the Matter of Britain too.

                    >
                    > I also repeat my question: if we use _mythology_ about the
                    > legendarium, what word do we use about the mythology? Tolkien's
                    > whatchamacallit contains a lot of mythology (both in chunks and
                    > blended into the rest), and I think we will want to talk about
                    > that and will need the word for that purpose.

                    Sure, but the same problem pertains to _legendarium_, Tolkien's whatchamacallit contains a lot of legendary material both in chunks and blended into the rest, and when we want to talk about that we need a word for that: does "legend" really have enough difference from "legendarium" to adequately do this and is legendarium sufficiently large to include all the various types of literature that need to come under that umbrella? I'm not necessarily arguing for a term I use, just pointing out the inadequacies we face regardless of what we end up calling it.

                    Perhaps Mytho-Legedendariumlike Matter of Middle Earth's Feigned History: Molmefh.

                    --
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