On 1/30/2012 7:57 PM, scribbler@...
> I like all you have to say here, Darrell - and I pretty much agree with it.
> Even down to the discussion of Aragorn. I admit that I linked him and
> "stereotype" for shock value, and because it's quite true that a less
> sophisticated reader would indeed consider him a stereotype.
> But I also agree that Tolkien's artistry in writing Aragorn is such that
> you can't really leave him at the "flat generalization" level. His easy
> comraderie when the hobbits first meet him is not the image of a sterling
> upright hero - he's savvy, shrewed and not without dry humor. Therein lies
> Tolkien's skill: he introduces us to Aragorn as Strider and shows us the
> characters much more accessible qualities before we learn the real weight
> of his destiny.
> Heh. There may be a paper topic there. But not from me at present. :D
I confess that my "defense" of stereotyping, although carefully worded,
has an element of shock value as well. Make of that what one will ...
I have thought, since I read the Silmarillion a half dozen times in the
year it was published, that Tolkien often does something that is in some
ways the opposite of stereotyping. That is, he takes elements of what it
is to be human, and assigns them to different races in Middle-earth. It
seems similar to Ursula LeGuin's "thought experiments", a prime example
of which is her extraordinary "Left Hand of Darkness".
However, instead of generalizing what it is to be human as an
experiment, Tolkien particularizes. As one example, Orcs are simply
human beings as they would be (or as some are?) with no souls. Just like
us but with no concept of beauty, love, or wonder; no genuine affection
for anyone, not even themselves; no real appreciation for anything that
is not useful for doing what Orcs want to do. Elves are simply human
beings as we would be if our lives were completely entwined, and in
harmony, with the world we live in. Much more connected to the life of
that which is around them than we can ever be, immortal in a sense,
Elves paradoxically have no known destiny -- not even hope -- beyond the
end of Middle-earth.
Another possible paper. Not me either. :/