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

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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 1 of 19 , Jul 20 10:12 AM
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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 2 of 19 , Jul 22 8:26 AM
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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 3 of 19 , Jul 22 10:16 AM
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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 4 of 19 , Jul 22 10:22 AM
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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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