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Tolkien's runes of power (was Re: Digest Number 632)

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  • Michael Martinez
    ... I cited Letter 155/156 in my essay Understanding Magic in J.R.R. Tolkien s Middle-earth , the original version of which was published on the Vault s
    Message 1 of 19 , Jul 19, 2001
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      --- In mythsoc@y..., "Trudy Shaw" <tgshaw@e...> wrote:
      > I can't lay my hands on an actual quote right now, but my
      > impression has been that the power of "Elf magic" lies in the
      > Elves' direct connection to and strong bonding with the created
      > world, which Mortals don't have because of their destiny to pass
      > beyond it.

      I cited Letter 155/156 in my essay "Understanding Magic in J.R.R.
      Tolkien's Middle-earth", the original version of which was published
      on the Vault's Middle-earth site (set up for Sierra's now-defunct
      Middle-earth Online game) and republished in Visualizing Middle-
      earth. I'm at work and don't have the URL or time to dig it up. But
      I may have included a few other citations (such as the Beorn-magician
      one) showing how Tolkien changed his mind on Men's ability to use
      magic. It was a 40-page paper and I can't remember all the details.

      >
      > Two questions on earlier posts--
      > In the quotation about technology (above), is Arthur C. Clarke
      > referring specifically to Tolkien's Elves or to the (pardon the
      > expression ) garden variety?

      Clarke's statement, so far as I know, is a classic: "Any sufficiently
      advanced technology seems like magic." I have never seen it
      specifically associated with Tolkien.

      > Does Gandalf's "library research" really come under the heading
      > of magic? The knowledge helps him track down what happened to the
      > Ring, but he doesn't seem to use it in any magical way.

      Although I agree that "knowledge is power", I don't equate "power"
      with "magic".

      Tolkien does not associate reading and writing with magic in his
      Middle-earth stories. I think it's going beyond his intentions to
      argue that a writing system or the use of written language is a
      magical application.
    • Sweet & Tender Hooligan
      ... _________________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Get your free @yahoo.com address at http://mail.yahoo.com
      Message 2 of 19 , Jul 19, 2001
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        > I cited Letter 155/156 in my essay "Understanding Magic in J.R.R.
        > Tolkien's Middle-earth", the original version of which was published
        > on the Vault's Middle-earth site (set up for Sierra's now-defunct
        > Middle-earth Online game) and republished in Visualizing Middle-
        > earth. I'm at work and don't have the URL or time to dig it up.

        It's at:

        http://mevault.ign.com/features/editorials/understandingmagic.shtml

        paul christian glenn | pcg@...

        "And then I lost it. I kinda lost it all,
        you know? Faith, dignity, about
        fifteen pounds..."


















        .


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      • Michael Martinez
        ... That s it, thanks. And I see the Beorn reference is in Letter 144, not Letter 211, which I believe I attributed it to previously.
        Message 3 of 19 , Jul 19, 2001
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          --- In mythsoc@y..., "Sweet & Tender Hooligan" <cirhsein@y...> wrote:
          >
          > It's at:
          >
          > http://mevault.ign.com/features/editorials/understandingmagic.shtml

          That's it, thanks. And I see the Beorn reference is in Letter 144,
          not Letter 211, which I believe I attributed it to previously.
        • dianejoy@earthlink.net
          ... From: Michael Martinez michael@xenite.org Date: Thu, 19 Jul 2001 18:27:12 -0000 To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Subject: [mythsoc] Tolkien s runes of power
          Message 4 of 19 , Jul 20, 2001
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            Original Message:
            -----------------
            From: Michael Martinez michael@...
            Date: Thu, 19 Jul 2001 18:27:12 -0000
            To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: [mythsoc] Tolkien's runes of power (was Re: Digest Number 632)


            --- In mythsoc@y..., "Sweet & Tender Hooligan" <cirhsein@y...> wrote:
            >>
            >> It's at:
            >>
            >> http://mevault.ign.com/features/editorials/understandingmagic.shtml

            >That's it, thanks. And I see the Beorn reference is in Letter 144,
            >not Letter 211, which I believe I attributed it to previously.

            I must congratulate you on a very detailed and perceptive piece. Haven't read it all; I have trouble reading long articles on screen; I've bookmarked it and hope to read it once I print it off. It may be a while.
            Have you considered sending it off to a print publication---like *Mythlore* for instance, or are there legal rammifications? ---djb

            The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org

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          • Michael Martinez
            ... Haven t read it all; I have trouble reading long articles on screen; I ve bookmarked it and hope to read it once I print it off. It may be a while. ...
            Message 5 of 19 , Jul 20, 2001
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              --- In mythsoc@y..., "dianejoy@e..." <dianejoy@e...> wrote:

              > I must congratulate you on a very detailed and perceptive piece.
              Haven't read it all; I have trouble reading long articles on
              screen; I've bookmarked it and hope to read it once I print it off.
              It may be a while.
              > Have you considered sending it off to a print publication---like
              *Mythlore* for instance, or are there legal rammifications? ---djb

              Thank you. I included the essay in Visualizing Middle-earth. Right
              now I have such a backlog of writing projects that I'm not going to
              submit anything to anyone. I've been approving reprint requests
              since no one ever asks for a rewrite with those. :)
            • David J. Finnamore
              ... of letter #155, where he says, Anyway, a difference in the use of magic in this story is that it is not to be come by by lore or spells; but is in an
              Message 6 of 19 , Jul 22, 2001
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                --- In mythsoc@y..., "Trudy Shaw" <tgshaw@e...> wrote:
                > The "native talent" description is supported by Tolkien at the end
                of letter #155, where he says, "Anyway, a difference in the use of
                'magic' in this story is that it is not to be come by by 'lore' or
                spells; but is in an inherent power not possessed or attainable by Men
                as such. Aragorn's 'healing' might be regarded as 'magical', or at
                least a blend of magic with pharmacy and 'hypnotic' processes. But it
                is (in theory) reported by hobbits who have very little notions of
                philosophy and science; while A. is not a pure 'Man', but at long
                remove one of the 'children of Luthien'."

                It seems to me, then, that there is a clear distinction between what
                he, as an "outside observer" believed about what was behind his tale,
                and what those who (in theory) reported the tale believed. The story
                itself, unless my memory is failing, makes numerous references to a
                relationship between magical power and the learning of lore.


                > In the quotation about technology (above), is Arthur C. Clarke
                referring specifically to Tolkien's Elves or to the (pardon the
                expression ) garden variety?

                Niether. He was not referring to Tolkien but to the fact that people
                with advanced technology can appear to be magical to those without it.
                Which seems to have happened in the case of Elves and Hobbits.

                David
              • Michael Martinez
                ... I cannot think of any such references. However, the paragraph cited above is the same one against which Tolkien wrote the marginal note pointing out that
                Message 7 of 19 , Jul 22, 2001
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                  --- In mythsoc@y..., "David J. Finnamore" <daeron@b...> wrote:
                  > --- In mythsoc@y..., "Trudy Shaw" <tgshaw@e...> wrote:
                  > > The "native talent" description is supported by Tolkien at the
                  > > end of letter #155, where he says, "Anyway, a difference in the
                  > > use of 'magic' in this story is that it is not to be come by
                  > > by 'lore' or spells; but is in an inherent power not possessed or
                  > > attainable by Men as such. Aragorn's 'healing' might be regarded
                  > > as 'magical', or at least a blend of magic with pharmacy
                  > > and 'hypnotic' processes. But it is (in theory) reported by
                  > > hobbits who have very little notions of philosophy and science;
                  > > while A. is not a pure 'Man', but at long remove one of
                  > > the 'children of Luthien'."
                  >
                  > It seems to me, then, that there is a clear distinction between
                  > what he, as an "outside observer" believed about what was behind
                  > his tale, and what those who (in theory) reported the tale
                  > believed. The story itself, unless my memory is failing, makes
                  > numerous references to a relationship between magical power and the
                  > learning of lore.

                  I cannot think of any such references. However, the paragraph cited
                  above is the same one against which Tolkien wrote the marginal note
                  pointing out that Numenoreans used spells in making swords.

                  I was sure it wouldn't be long before an Anglo-Saxon-centric argument
                  was made about Tolkien's magic, but it can be shown that his magic
                  closely resembles nothing and vaguely resembles everything. I am
                  sure that was his intent, but I doubt he ever confessed to doing
                  things that way in writing.

                  Gandalf and the wizards, for example, exhibit powers which are found
                  in Greek mythology, from Zeus hurtling thunderbolts at people to
                  various gods changing into animals and trees (Radagast being a master
                  of shapes and hues, although there are people who argue endlessly
                  and, in my opinion, pointlessly about how Gandalf's comment cannot
                  possibly refer to anything like Radagast changing his own shape).

                  And Tolkien made a point of calling the Rohirrim "Homeric horsemen",
                  although there were no such horsemen in Homer (that I recall). On
                  the other hand, Tolkien exhibited a fondness for Alexander the Great,
                  at least to the extent that Alexander is mentioned more than once in
                  Tolkien's letters.

                  The Rohirrim thus appear to be loosely based on the Goths as they
                  were perceived to be in the 1940s (at the time of their entries into
                  the Roman Empire) as far as culture goes; their "translated" language
                  and nomenclature are taken directly from Anglo-Saxon (Mercian,
                  according to some people, but I don't know enough to distinguish such
                  features of language); their ideas and values are "Homeric", even
                  down to men forseeing their deaths and taking oaths which carry them
                  to the far ends of the world; and they are very close to being a
                  rewrite of the Third House of the Edain, the Marachians.

                  Helm Hammerhand resembles Hurin in some ways, and Eorl the Young
                  might be modelled on Hador. At the time he wrote THE LORD OF THE
                  RINGS, Tolkien knew far more about those earlier characters than he
                  was revealing to his Hobbit readership, so he seems to have had no
                  qualms about borrowing from himself. And both Helm and Hurin owe a
                  little something to Herakles, being men of great strength with
                  tempers that get them into trouble. And they both lose their
                  families because of their actions.
                • Michael Martinez
                  ... I meant to add something about the two famous charges of the Rohirrim: Eorl s arrival at the Battle of the Field of Celebrant and Theoden s charge in the
                  Message 8 of 19 , Jul 22, 2001
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                    --- In mythsoc@y..., "Michael Martinez" <michael@x> wrote:
                    > --- In mythsoc@y..., "David J. Finnamore" <daeron@b...> wrote:
                    > The Rohirrim thus appear to be loosely based on the Goths as they
                    > were perceived to be in the 1940s (at the time of their entries
                    > into the Roman Empire) as far as culture goes; their "translated"
                    > language and nomenclature are taken directly from Anglo-Saxon
                    > (Mercian, according to some people, but I don't know enough to
                    > distinguish such features of language); their ideas and values
                    > are "Homeric", even down to men forseeing their deaths and taking
                    > oaths which carry them to the far ends of the world; and they are
                    > very close to being a rewrite of the Third House of the Edain, the
                    > Marachians.

                    I meant to add something about the two famous charges of the
                    Rohirrim: Eorl's arrival at the Battle of the Field of Celebrant and
                    Theoden's charge in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Both charges
                    owe a little something to Alexander, who more than once led his
                    Companion cavalry in charges against the center of enemy lines (an
                    unusual cavalry tactic for a time centuries before the stirrup came
                    along -- and I don't believe the high saddles used by Roman Cibinarii
                    for similar tactics had been developed yet, either).

                    Anyway, I was starting to get ahead of myself as I typed, as the
                    Helm/Hurin/Herakles comparison was one I hadn't made in a long time,
                    and it suddenly reoccurred to me.
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