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Another article on Tolkien ...

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  • David S. Bratman
    ... and a pretty good one. David Podgurski, Stamford (CT) Advocate: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/stamford/2001-06-17/article3.shtml
    Message 1 of 18 , Sep 19, 2001
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      ... and a pretty good one. David Podgurski, Stamford (CT) Advocate:

      http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/stamford/2001-06-17/article3.shtml
    • Ted Sherman
      Thanks, David. I just passed it on to Mike Foster (in Boulder, CO) who will be talking about Tolkien for Potterheads at his local Barnes&Noble on Tuesday.
      Message 2 of 18 , Sep 19, 2001
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        Thanks, David. I just passed it on to Mike Foster (in Boulder, CO) who will
        be talking about "Tolkien for Potterheads" at his local Barnes&Noble on
        Tuesday.

        Ted
        ------------------------------
        Dr. Theodore J. Sherman, Editor
        Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and
        Mythopoeic Literature
        Associate Professor of English
        Box X041, Middle Tennessee State University
        Murfreesboro, TN 37132
        615 898-5836 Office
        615 898-5098 FAX
        tsherman@... Office
        tedsherman@... Home

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: David S. Bratman <dbratman@...>
        To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2001 5:20 PM
        Subject: [mythsoc] Another article on Tolkien ...


        > ... and a pretty good one. David Podgurski, Stamford (CT) Advocate:
        >
        > http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/stamford/2001-06-17/article3.shtml
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
        >
        > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
        >
        >
        >
      • Michael Martinez
        ... 17/article3.shtml Well, it seemed pretty good up until this point: Still, there are things in Tolkien that always make me pause. There is an awful lot of
        Message 3 of 18 , Sep 20, 2001
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          --- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
          > ... and a pretty good one. David Podgurski, Stamford (CT) Advocate:
          >
          > http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/stamford/2001-06-
          17/article3.shtml

          Well, it seemed pretty good up until this point:

          "Still, there are things in Tolkien that always make me pause. There
          is an awful lot of importance placed upon bloodlines and the
          qualities of 'races' of people and breeding in his books. Though his
          omniscient narrator says nothing is evil at first, some characters'
          natures, it is noted, dispose them to evil. As in morality tales, the
          bad guys wear black or are often dark-skinned, hailing from the
          southerly land of Mordor. When Tolkien uses the word "black"
          or 'darkness' to describe evil in general, he seems to be referring
          to an absence of light (his good guys, like Gandalf, emanate
          brightness like halogens). Still, the elves - who don't die unless
          they are killed - are shining white hopes, practically candle white."

          These are NOT "things in Tolkien". They are mostly things in the
          minds of inattentive readers. Very little is ever said or implied
          about bloodlines, for example, although the story of the Kin-strife
          in the appendices makes it clear that only villains and misguided
          people place any emphasis on bloodlines (not to mention the fact that
          it is a lowly corrupted Hobbit rather than a Maia, Elf, or Man who
          saves Middle-earth).

          Aragorn's heritage is not an issue of bloodlines but of inheritance
          and winning back the rights his ancestors gave up or lost. He had to
          earn the kingdom. He couldn't just walk into Minas Tirith and
          say, "Okay, here I am, crown me."

          And if dark is the color of the bad guys, then Aragorn (with his
          black standard) and the Guards of the Tower in Minas Tirith had to be
          nearly as evil as the Nazgul, since they wore black. And it amazes
          me how some people simply disregard the evil committed by the
          Rohirrim (such as the hunting of Ghan-buri-Ghan's people) and pale-
          skinned Numenoreans (most of whom rebelled against God and the
          Valar), not to mention the good people who are dark-skinned, such as
          the Men of Bree and the swarthy men who march to Minas Tirith's
          defense.

          Even the Dunlendings are not portrayed as evil, but rather as wronged
          (by both the Dunedain and the Rohirrim) and therefore susceptible to
          manipulation. One of the most willful evil-doers in the book is
          white-skinned Grima Wormtongue. Saruman is also evil, and his symbol
          is the white hand.

          Every time someone publishes an article with nonsense like the above
          assertions from Mr. Podgurski, people who have made similar
          oversights in reading the books, or who have not read the books yet,
          are reinforced to believe absolute rubbish about Tolkien.

          Tolkien's defenders sometimes do far more harm than his detractors.
          It's a shame people aren't more careful in choosing what they write
          about Tolkien. Over and over again, THE LORD OF THE RINGS shows how
          the "higher" races are ultimately responsible for evil, and
          the "lesser" races save the day:

          Melkor and his fallen Maiar (such as Sauron and the Balrog) are the
          corrupters of innocents (who become Orcs and Trolls, or just Men
          following the wrong leaders).

          The Elves bring on great suffering and tragedy, either through their
          rebellion (the Noldor's flight from Aman) or their attempt to subvert
          nature (the Noldor's creation of the Rings of Power).

          The Numenoreans don't fall once but twice: the first time when most
          of them rebel against Iluvatar and the Valar and bring on the
          destruction of their homeland; the second time when the racist
          Dunedain of Gondor rebel against the rightful king (who is not of
          pure blood).

          Even the Hobbits cannot escape their sins, both petty and vicious.
          Some of them steal from others (as when young Frodo steals
          mushrooms). Others betray their own people and willingly serve
          Saruman and his Ruffians.

          There are no "good" races in Tolkien any more than there are
          purely "bad" races. Gandalf points out to Frodo that "nothing is
          evil in the beginning" (not the "omniscient narrative voice" as Mr.
          Podgurski says). All individuals in Tolkien must choose between good
          and evil. Some choose wisely, some choose poorly, and some get a
          second chance.

          Someday, we'll no longer see ridiculous attempts to laud Tolkien
          while backhandedly slapping him with allegations of racism (veiled or
          overt). You can't prevent people from rewriting Tolkien so as to
          misrepresent the story, but you CAN encourage them to get their facts
          straight. That is something all Tolkien fans should work toward,
          both "great" and "small".
        • Trudy Shaw
          ... From: Michael Martinez To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Thursday, September 20, 2001 12:16 PM Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Another article on Tolkien ... These
          Message 4 of 18 , Sep 21, 2001
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            ----- Original Message -----
            From: Michael Martinez
            To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Thursday, September 20, 2001 12:16 PM
            Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Another article on Tolkien ...


            These are NOT "things in Tolkien". They are mostly things in the
            minds of inattentive readers.


            And at the end of "The Tower of Cirith Ungol," we see Galadriel's phial blaze, "As if to do honour to his [Sam's] hardihood, and to grace with splendour his faithful brown hobbit-hand that had done such deeds..." A lot of "inattentive readers" probably attribute Sam's brown hand solely to his work as a gardener, missing the basic fact that he's the only one of the hobbits of the Fellowship who isn't primarily Fallohide. I've got nothing against Sean Astin, and I give Peter Jackson credit for doing a good job with difficult material/circumstances, but I get a twinge of regret whenever I think of the lost chance to cast someone darker-skinned as Sam in the upcoming movies (not African--which would be too dark-skinned for a hobbit--but someone "brown").

            It's interesting that the passage quoted above echoes, in a small way, the earlier scene when Sam sees the dead Southron, whose "...brown hand still clutched the hilt of a broken sword." It's probably stretching things too far to say that Tolkien is implying Sam and the Southron have exactly the same coloring, but Sam's empathy for the man is moving--and very different from the attitude of most of the "white" soldiers from Gondor.

            -- Trudy Shaw



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          • Michael Martinez
            ... None of the Hobbits in the Fellowship are primarily Fallohide. Tolkien points out in the Prologue that the distinctions between the three groups had mostly
            Message 5 of 18 , Sep 21, 2001
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              --- In mythsoc@y..., "Trudy Shaw" <tgshaw@e...> wrote:
              >
              > ----- Original Message -----
              > From: Michael Martinez
              > To: mythsoc@y...
              > Sent: Thursday, September 20, 2001 12:16 PM
              > Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Another article on Tolkien ...
              >
              >
              > These are NOT "things in Tolkien". They are mostly things in the
              > minds of inattentive readers.
              >
              >
              > And at the end of "The Tower of Cirith Ungol," we see Galadriel's
              > phial blaze, "As if to do honour to his [Sam's] hardihood, and to
              > grace with splendour his faithful brown hobbit-hand that had done
              > such deeds..." A lot of "inattentive readers" probably attribute
              > Sam's brown hand solely to his work as a gardener, missing the
              > basic fact that he's the only one of the hobbits of the Fellowship
              > who isn't primarily Fallohide.

              None of the Hobbits in the Fellowship are primarily Fallohide.
              Tolkien points out in the Prologue that the distinctions between the
              three groups had mostly vanished by the time of the War of the Ring,
              although there were still strong Stoor traits in the Marish and
              Buckland.

              The Baggins family in probably started out as Harfoots. The Tooks
              were still regarded as a Fallohide clan, I believe, but the genealogy
              shows they had intermarried with other families extensively.

              > It's interesting that the passage quoted above echoes, in a small
              > way, the earlier scene when Sam sees the dead Southron,
              > whose "...brown hand still clutched the hilt of a broken sword."
              > It's probably stretching things too far to say that Tolkien is
              > implying Sam and the Southron have exactly the same coloring, but
              > Sam's empathy for the man is moving--and very different from the
              > attitude of most of the "white" soldiers from Gondor.

              The "white" soldiers of Gondor don't express any interest in the skin-
              color of their enemies. They are professional soldiers (if you're
              referring to Faramir's rangers) or else are simply mentioned as
              background to the story. We hear from precisely three common
              soldiers in the story: Faramir's two rangers and Beregond. Ingold
              was apparently an officer or sergeant in charge of the men repairing
              the wall. Anborn has only a brief comment when Faramir shows Gollum
              to Frodo.

              It is significant that the Dunlendings, who used racial slurs to
              insult the Rohirrim (calling them Strawheads), found to their regret
              that Erkenbrand and his people were not horrible, evil monsters,
              despite the fact that Eomer and his folk hunted Ghan-buri-Ghan's
              people. The Dunlendings were portrayed as misguided.

              On the other hand, Aragorn was rather contemptuous of the Hobbits
              when he first met them and he didn't think they were up to the task
              of taking on the Dark Lord and his Nazgul. He changed his tune. So,
              on those occasions where Tolkien allows a character to express
              racism, he shows that the racism is wrong.

              There is no indication in the text that Sam felt any sort of affinity
              for the dead Southron -- certainly not based on the color of their
              skin. He simply wondered if the man was really evil, and that is the
              kind of thought which many soldiers have had when looking at their
              dead enemies on the battlefield (a thought Tolkien himself must have
              had at one point in his own career).

              Sam was a pretty amicable fellow. He got along with everyone but
              Gollum, and that may be significant. Why should Sam not get along
              with a fellow Hobbit? Because Gollum was, in Sam's point of view,
              irredeemable. Tolkien criticized Sam in one of his letters,
              suggesting that but for Sam's intransigence, Gollum might have been
              saved.
            • David S. Bratman
              THe Fallohides ... were more friendly with Elves than the other Hobbits were, and had more skill in language and song than in handicrafts ... somewhat bolder
              Message 6 of 18 , Sep 21, 2001
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                "THe Fallohides ... were more friendly with Elves than the other Hobbits
                were, and had more skill in language and song than in handicrafts ...
                somewhat bolder and more adventurous ... Even in Bilbo's time the strong
                Fallohidish strain could still be noted among the greater families, such as
                the Tooks and the Masters of Buckland."

                -- J.R.R. Tolkien, Prologue to The Lord of the Rings

                Sound like anyone we know? The distinctive quality of Fallohides had not
                entirely disappeared, though "primarily Fallohide" is probably an
                exaggeration. I have always assumed that the "something Tookish" that
                awakens in Bilbo in The Hobbit is of Fallohide origin.

                The reference to "strain" suggests that our principal aristocratic hobbits
                were mixed Harfoot and Fallohide, and Merry, at least (the others had no
                known Brandybuck ancestry) was probably also part Stoor (wasn't he the only
                one at all at ease in a boat?).

                Still, Sam - pure Harfoot though he may have been - also loved Elves and
                had some skill in song (though to call him at all adventurous would be to
                misunderstand his character), so this isn't a case of character by pure
                genetic determinism.

                Because the others were surely mixed, they may not have been significantly
                less brownish of hue than Sam by nature. Sam's job undoubtably did
                contribute to his skin color. That the Shire was inspired by 19th-century
                English country life shows that. Not until beach-lounging with few clothes
                became fashionable in the early 20th did tans come to signify persons of
                leisure. Until then, a tan meant a working person. Aristocrats were pale,
                as any number of English folk songs praising the beauty of women "with skin
                as white as milk" tell us.

                David Bratman
              • Michael Martinez
                ... I ll wait to see anyone feels I contradicted myself in my last message. I know what I wanted to say, but am not sure if I said it properly. However. While
                Message 7 of 18 , Sep 21, 2001
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                  --- In mythsoc@y..., "Michael Martinez" <michael@x> wrote:
                  > --- In mythsoc@y..., "Trudy Shaw" <tgshaw@e...> wrote:

                  > > And at the end of "The Tower of Cirith Ungol," we see
                  > > Galadriel's phial blaze, "As if to do honour to his [Sam's]
                  > > hardihood, and to grace with splendour his faithful brown hobbit-
                  > > hand that had done such deeds..." A lot of "inattentive readers"
                  > > probably attribute Sam's brown hand solely to his work as a
                  > > gardener, missing the basic fact that he's the only one of the
                  > > hobbits of the Fellowship who isn't primarily Fallohide.

                  I'll wait to see anyone feels I contradicted myself in my last
                  message. I know what I wanted to say, but am not sure if I said it
                  properly.

                  However.

                  While rushing to pick up my lunch, I gave your reference a little
                  more thought and it seems to me that this is a perfect example of
                  what Tolkien referred to as "applicability".

                  As I understand it, he considered such comparisons to be applicable
                  if they had the appearance of being correct yet were not so. That
                  is, the facts as provided in the text might fit an interpretive
                  theory, but the theory nonetheless does NOT represent the author's
                  point of view or intention.

                  A mallet may be used to pound a wooden peg into a hole, or it may be
                  used to hit someone over the head. The mallet is applicable in the
                  second example, but the action does not represent the intent of the
                  mallet maker. Yes, the mallet CAN be used to hit people. But it was
                  not intended for that.

                  That's the best illustration I can think of off the top of my head.

                  Ultimately, what I object to, when people go on about the supposed
                  racism in the book, is the inevitable slanders (intended or
                  unintended) which follow such conclusions, usually disguised in
                  pseudo-polite language such as "he was a man of his times" (he was
                  still alive during the lifetimes of most of his readers, so his times
                  was our times).

                  I can only judge Tolkien by the things he wrote, or said in
                  interviews. I've known many racists, having grown up in a country
                  and region where racism has been the focus of much social commentary
                  and action, and Tolkien doesn't write like a racist. He certainly
                  doesn't come off as one in the response he forwarded to Allen & Unwin
                  for the Nazi request that he prove the purity of his blood.

                  In dealing with THE LORD OF THE RINGS, some people make casual
                  generalizations which they feel convey their points but which
                  nonetheless don't represent the content of the book. For example,
                  every time I see someone refer to "bloodlines" in Tolkien (and that
                  is what I latched onto in this discussion), I wonder which chapter on
                  breeding programs they have in mind. Whichever one it should be, it
                  doesn't appear in any copies of the book that I possess.

                  There is no passage in the book where any character says something
                  like, "Well, you are of pure blood, so you may pass." The Elves of
                  Lorien are certainly more inclined to let Legolas pass than Gimli,
                  but then, they also have a law to obey (no outsiders allowed) and
                  they prove to be very accomodating in allowing the entire Fellowship
                  to enter their realm. The Rohirrim have implemented a similar ban on
                  outside travelers, but Eomer still works out a plan whereby Aragorn
                  and his companions are able to conclude their business.

                  The insularity of Lorien and Rohan follow upon the insularity of the
                  Shire and Bree. Only the Eldar seem to lack any biases, but the
                  insular policies of the Shire, Bree, Lorien, and Rohan are not based
                  on race or bloodlines. The Elves of Lorien single out Dwarves for a
                  specific exclusion, but they generally forbid everyone to enter their
                  realm unbidden, and they bestow the most honor upon Gimli
                  nonetheless. If Tolkien wanted the Elves to be all wrapped up in
                  bloodlines, why would he have his Elves treat Gimli with such
                  respect? Legolas becomes his best friend, Haldir removes Gimli's
                  blindfold first, Galadriel gives three strands of her hair to Gimli
                  (he only asked for one) -- there is no indication of racism there.

                  On the other hand, everyone is repulsed (apparently) by the Half-
                  orcs. Or is it that they are repulsed by the idea of Saruman's
                  breeding program? The Uruk-hai make a big deal out of being who they
                  are. They also end up slaughtered. Is it the author's intention to
                  dwell upon bloodlines, or is he suggesting something else?

                  Aragorn doesn't just emphasize his descent from Elendil, he
                  emphasizes his right to rule Gondor through both his forefathers
                  Isildur and Anarion. By including Anarion in his lineage, Aragorn
                  acknowledges that his blood is NOT pure. And he has no problem when
                  Faramir chooses to marry Eowyn. Where is the concern about
                  bloodlines in either of these two characters, who represent what is
                  best in Tolkien's Dunedain?

                  Elrond, the mightiest of the Elves, is the Half-elven. He marries
                  Celebrian, daughter of the Sindarin Celeborn and the Noldorin
                  Galadriel.

                  Wherever possible, Tolkien depicts a realistic mingling of peoples,
                  and he does allow a few characters to dwell on the purity of blood.
                  Such prejudices are realistic, and apparently to him they were evil,
                  because none of his characters is ever vindicated in such a view.
                  Why is that?

                  When Tolkien spoke of Sam and Frodo's relationship, he phrased it in
                  terms of class. Frodo was from the aristocracy, Sam was from the
                  working class. Frodo was the master, Sam was the servant. But in
                  the end Frodo bestowed his wealth and much of his social position
                  upon Sam. Sam rose to the level of the aristocracy, and he did so
                  really through his own efforts. Frodo's wealth helped, but Sam won
                  recognition for himself through his own deeds, the greatest of which
                  (in the eyes of the Shire-folk, probably) would have been his
                  campaign to restore the Shire after Saruman's ruffians were turned
                  out.

                  So, how is it that bloodlines or purity of blood have no effect upon
                  Sam's social career?

                  If bloodlines are so important to Tolkien, it should be easy enough
                  to show that his primary characters are interested in them, driven by
                  some necessity to preserve them, or to show that the story itself is
                  concerned with the subject.

                  It's not possible to show any of these things. But some people
                  insist on making irreconcilable statements about bloodlines and, if
                  they do so in a widely published article, their errors deserve
                  attention and correction.
                • Michael Martinez
                  ... As have I and, I am sure, most other people. Your method of correction is in this case undoubtedly gentler than mine. ... Frodo was comfortable with the
                  Message 8 of 18 , Sep 21, 2001
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                    --- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
                    >
                    > Sound like anyone we know? The distinctive quality of Fallohides
                    > had not entirely disappeared, though "primarily Fallohide" is
                    > probably an exaggeration. I have always assumed that
                    > the "something Tookish" that awakens in Bilbo in The Hobbit is of
                    > Fallohide origin.

                    As have I and, I am sure, most other people. Your method of
                    correction is in this case undoubtedly gentler than mine.

                    > The reference to "strain" suggests that our principal aristocratic
                    > hobbits were mixed Harfoot and Fallohide, and Merry, at least (the
                    > others had no known Brandybuck ancestry) was probably also part
                    > Stoor (wasn't he the only one at all at ease in a boat?).

                    Frodo was comfortable with the boats, too. I don't recall Pippin's
                    reaction to the boats, but I think Sam was the only one who reacted
                    fearfully to them. Frodo and Pippin were both descended of the
                    Brandybuck family, too, but the fear of boats was depicted as a
                    cultural thing. The Stoors were originally a river-side people (and
                    their history throughout Eriador and the Vales of Anduin, as
                    documented in the Appendices, closely associates all branches of the
                    Stoors with rivers).
                  • David S. Bratman
                    ... Frodo did had Brandybuck ancestry too (I was mistaken in stating otherwise), but though Pippin had Brandybuck relatives, if he had any Brandybuck descent
                    Message 9 of 18 , Sep 21, 2001
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                      At 10:12 AM 9/21/2001 , Michael Martinez wrote:

                      >Frodo was comfortable with the boats, too. I don't recall Pippin's
                      >reaction to the boats, but I think Sam was the only one who reacted
                      >fearfully to them. Frodo and Pippin were both descended of the
                      >Brandybuck family, too,

                      Frodo did had Brandybuck ancestry too (I was mistaken in stating
                      otherwise), but though Pippin had Brandybuck relatives, if he had any
                      Brandybuck descent I've missed it.

                      >but the fear of boats was depicted as a
                      >cultural thing. The Stoors were originally a river-side people

                      But why did they live on riversides? Maybe because they were comfortable
                      with water. This is one of those nature vs. nurture questions that can
                      probably never be answered, at least not without live hobbits and a B.F.
                      Skinner willing to made psychological experiments on them.

                      Your comments on how Tolkien doesn't write like a racist are good ones.
                      One has to be careful, because there _is_ a genetic element in Tolkien's
                      sense of goodness - closeness to the Elves (and within Elves to Valinor),
                      whether through ancestry _or culture_ is always a good thing. But badness
                      consists not of being far away (in these senses) by happenstance, but only
                      by rejection. The further away can still be good, as the Rohirrim -
                      neither part-Elf nor Numenorean (and quite illiterate, I believe) - show.
                      If Boromir could succumb to the spell of the Ring in part because he was
                      less of a Numenorean in nature than Faramir was, then Denethor shows how
                      the highest of Numenoreans could likewise fall.

                      A tendentious argument could be made that the eldest line is always pure.
                      Aragorn is the eldest son of the eldest son all the way back, whereas the
                      fall of Gondor is clearly marked in the number of to-brother or to-nephew
                      jumps in the line of the kings and then (once the kings have vanished
                      altogether) of the Stewards (see _Peoples of Middle-earth_ p. 203-7). But
                      Gondor was founded by a younger son, so - the argument would run - what
                      could you expect? And the fallible later Kings of Numenor itself were
                      actually a younger branch of Elros's line than the ever-virtuous Faithful.

                      But, if so, what about Isildur? Supposedly a virtuous eldest Numenorean,
                      if he hadn't been killed off he would have become a Lord of the Ring as
                      evil as Sauron. And what of Melkor himself? The eldest in Illuvatar's
                      thought, no created being ranks above him in this schema, yet none is more
                      evil.

                      It's a tendency - a tendency only. And it can always be overcome, in both
                      directions.

                      David Bratman
                    • Trudy Shaw
                      ... From: Michael Martinez To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Friday, September 21, 2001 12:12 PM Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Another article on Tolkien ... ...
                      Message 10 of 18 , Sep 22, 2001
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                        ----- Original Message -----
                        From: Michael Martinez
                        To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                        Sent: Friday, September 21, 2001 12:12 PM
                        Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Another article on Tolkien ...


                        --- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:


                        Frodo was comfortable with the boats, too.

                        --because he was raised near the Brandywine. And Sam was afraid of them (or of the river) because it was a new experience for him. Pippin surely visited at Brandy Hall enough to be comfortable with boats, but probably wouldn't have been as handy with them as Merry and Frodo (I've always considered Frodo's rescue of Sam at the end of FotR as a pretty good piece of boat-handling, which could have seriously undermined my suspension of disbelief if not for his years with the Brandybucks).

                        Having seen similar results in humans who've spent a good part of their lives near bodies of water, I'd lean toward nurture over nature on this one. Although, as was said, nature may have caused certain hobbits (or humans) to settle in such places to begin with.

                        -- Trudy Shaw





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                      • Michael Martinez
                        ... That is what comes of my not having the books to check. Pippin and Merry both appear side-by-side on the Baggins genealogy, so I was misremembering
                        Message 11 of 18 , Sep 24, 2001
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                          --- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
                          >
                          > Frodo did had Brandybuck ancestry too (I was mistaken in stating
                          > otherwise), but though Pippin had Brandybuck relatives, if he had
                          > any Brandybuck descent I've missed it.

                          That is what comes of my not having the books to check. Pippin and
                          Merry both appear side-by-side on the Baggins genealogy, so I was
                          misremembering things.

                          > >but the fear of boats was depicted as a
                          > >cultural thing. The Stoors were originally a river-side people
                          >
                          > But why did they live on riversides? Maybe because they were
                          > comfortable with water. This is one of those nature vs. nurture
                          > questions that can probably never be answered, at least not without
                          > live hobbits and a B.F. Skinner willing to made psychological
                          > experiments on them.

                          Actually, I've given quite a bit of thought to what Tolkien may have
                          had in mind. I suspect all the Hobbits originally lived close to a
                          river, and they only became differentiated after arriving in the
                          Vales of Anduin early in the Third Age.

                          Why would they live close to a river to begin with? A variety of
                          reasons I'm too tired to go into right now. :)

                          It's all conjecture anyway.

                          > A tendentious argument could be made that the eldest line is always
                          pure.

                          Not sure of what you mean there. Spiritually pure? Perhaps. The
                          thought has occurred to me that there is something Biblical in
                          Tolkien's eldest son themes. But Aragorn's blood is not pure, not by
                          descent. He is descended from Vidumavi, too.

                          I don't recall if Melkor is supposed to be the eldest of the Ainur.
                          He was the strongest, but I thought I read somewhere recently that
                          Manwe was "elder" or "senior" somehow.
                        • Trudy Shaw
                          ... From: Michael Martinez To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Friday, September 21, 2001 12:07 PM Subject: [mythsoc] On the other hand (was Re: Another article
                          Message 12 of 18 , Sep 24, 2001
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                            ----- Original Message -----
                            From: Michael Martinez
                            To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                            Sent: Friday, September 21, 2001 12:07 PM
                            Subject: [mythsoc] On the other hand (was Re: Another article on Tolkien ...)


                            --- In mythsoc@y..., "Michael Martinez" <michael@x> wrote:

                            While rushing to pick up my lunch, I gave your reference a little
                            more thought and it seems to me that this is a perfect example of
                            what Tolkien referred to as "applicability".

                            As I understand it, he considered such comparisons to be applicable
                            if they had the appearance of being correct yet were not so. That
                            is, the facts as provided in the text might fit an interpretive
                            theory, but the theory nonetheless does NOT represent the author's
                            point of view or intention.

                            A mallet may be used to pound a wooden peg into a hole, or it may be
                            used to hit someone over the head. The mallet is applicable in the
                            second example, but the action does not represent the intent of the
                            mallet maker. Yes, the mallet CAN be used to hit people. But it was
                            not intended for that.

                            That's the best illustration I can think of off the top of my head.




                            Well, that seems a bit more negative than the way I understand Tolkien's attitude toward applicability. He talks about the "freedom of the reader" in applicability vs. the "purposed domination of the author" in allegory, and also reminds us that what he's written is feigned history, "...with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers." He seems more concerned about an _author_ hitting someone over the head with a mallet than about a reader doing so.

                            I've always thought some of Tolkien's most interesting letters are responses to readers who asked him questions about Middle-earth that he said _he_ didn't know the answer to. In some of these letters he discusses various possibilities, and may give an opinion, but in his role as the historian of Middle-earth he doesn't claim to know everything, any more than an honest historian of true history would (this is consistent with the conceit of the Red Book, of course, but I also take seriously his claim that he felt as if he discovered the story more than invented it). This is where I'd put the role of applicability--in the realm of things having more than one interpretation that could be correct, rather than things that "had the appearance of being correct yet were not so." It's why, after nearly 50 years, people can still disagree about whether Balrogs have wings--as well as more important matters. There are a number of places where Tolkien appears to purposely leave the interpretation ambiguous, giving even more latitude to the freedom of the reader. (He's probably having a good laugh over the Balrog thing--the description in LotR is worded so perfectly to give two interpretations.)
                            As with true history, applicability also comes into play when the reader sees past events as relevant to present ones. Naturally this is outside the writer's intent, since he or she is writing before the events take place, but that doesn't mean the writing can't speak to the present situation. The Greeks who first cast ballots didn't "intend" U.S.-style democracy, but that didn't mean they weren't looked to for inspiration during its development. Tolkien's disagreement (as far as I can tell) wasn't with those who discovered things in LotR they felt were _relevant_ to WWII (even though he may have written them earlier), but with those who claimed LotR was an _allegory_ of WWII.

                            Tolkien discusses applicability in the context of "history, true or feigned," and I think that's probably the best context for understanding it.

                            -- Trudy Shaw

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                          • David S. Bratman
                            ... It s entirely understandable that one without the book at hand to check might misremember Pippin s Brandybuck relatives as implying Brandybuck ancestry.
                            Message 13 of 18 , Sep 24, 2001
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                              At 12:17 AM 9/24/2001 , Michael Martinez wrote:
                              >--- In mythsoc@y..., "David S. Bratman" <dbratman@s...> wrote:
                              >>
                              >> Frodo did had Brandybuck ancestry too (I was mistaken in stating
                              >> otherwise), but though Pippin had Brandybuck relatives, if he had
                              >> any Brandybuck descent I've missed it.
                              >
                              >That is what comes of my not having the books to check. Pippin and
                              >Merry both appear side-by-side on the Baggins genealogy, so I was
                              >misremembering things.

                              It's entirely understandable that one without the book at hand to check
                              might misremember Pippin's Brandybuck relatives as implying Brandybuck
                              ancestry. The Took family tree is curiously short on maternal ancestors.

                              >It's all conjecture anyway.

                              Of course. And a large part of Tolkien's appeal is that such conjecture is
                              possible without becoming risible.

                              >> A tendentious argument could be made that the eldest line is always
                              >pure.
                              >
                              >Not sure of what you mean there. Spiritually pure? Perhaps. The
                              >thought has occurred to me that there is something Biblical in
                              >Tolkien's eldest son themes. But Aragorn's blood is not pure, not by
                              >descent. He is descended from Vidumavi, too.

                              It's not what I mean, but what Tolkien means. Remember that I only put
                              forth this argument in order to show its flaws, but insofar as there's any
                              meat to it, eldest lines are always best, regardless of what other ancestry
                              may be involved.

                              >I don't recall if Melkor is supposed to be the eldest of the Ainur.
                              >He was the strongest, but I thought I read somewhere recently that
                              >Manwe was "elder" or "senior" somehow.

                              According to the Ainulindale, the Ainur seem to be coeval, but Melkor is
                              stated to be the mightiest and the one given the greatest gifts of power
                              and knowledge. He's clearly the first among equals. Manwe is said to be
                              Melkor's brother in Iluvatar's mind, and the chief instrument of the
                              _second_ theme.

                              David Bratman
                            • David S. Bratman
                              When Tolkien wrote of applicability, he was not referring to unknown or unsettled details of the facts of the secondary world (like whether pigs, er I mean
                              Message 14 of 18 , Sep 24, 2001
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                                When Tolkien wrote of applicability, he was not referring to unknown or
                                unsettled details of the facts of the secondary world (like whether pigs,
                                er I mean balrogs, have wings). Those things, as a "historian", he either
                                knew or did not know, and if he didn't he either could or couldn't find
                                out, and he maintained that position consistently. What he meant by
                                applicability was the moral application to our world, for which there is no
                                answer in secondary world terms, any more than the facts of primary world
                                history give factual answers to later problems. It is fact that Japan
                                attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, but the applicability of that fact to our
                                present situation is not a question of fact. How they are alike and how
                                unalike, and how our reaction to the one should guide our reaction to the
                                other, are matters of opinion and judgment.

                                Applying this to LOTR, take the atomic bomb, the specific example raised in
                                the preface. If readers wish to apply the moral lesson of the Ring to
                                guide their judgment of the Bomb, that's no skin off Tolkien's nose,
                                whether he would agree with that judgment or not. He's making a more
                                general point about power. Even if he agrees, the important fact for him
                                is that he's not telling you this. It is for you to make the equation.
                              • Michael Martinez
                                ... Tolkien s comments were not limited to the use of allegory. When asked about the appearance of the Rohirrim in comparison to the Bayeaux tapestry, Tolkien
                                Message 15 of 18 , Sep 24, 2001
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                                  --- In mythsoc@y..., "Trudy Shaw" <tgshaw@e...> wrote:
                                  > Well, that seems a bit more negative than the way I understand
                                  > Tolkien's attitude toward applicability. He talks about
                                  > the "freedom of the reader" in applicability vs. the "purposed
                                  > domination of the author" in allegory, and also reminds us that
                                  > what he's written is feigned history, "...with its varied
                                  > applicability to the thought and experience of readers." He seems
                                  > more concerned about an _author_ hitting someone over the head with
                                  > a mallet than about a reader doing so.

                                  Tolkien's comments were not limited to the use of allegory. When
                                  asked about the appearance of the Rohirrim in comparison to the
                                  Bayeaux tapestry, Tolkien replied: "The Rohirrim were
                                  not 'mediaeval', in our sense. The styles of the Bayeux Tapestry
                                  (made in England) fit them well enough, if one remembers that the
                                  kind of tennis-nets [the] soldiers seem to have are only a clumsy
                                  conventional sign for chain-mail of small rings."

                                  This is an example of how a reader is applying something to Tolkien's
                                  text which he didn't put in there (or did not admit to putting in
                                  there) himself.

                                  In the Foreword to THE LORD OF THE RINGS, Tolkien wrote the text you
                                  make reference to:

                                  "I much prefer history [to allegory], true or feigned, with its
                                  varied applicability to the thought and experience of the readers. I
                                  think that many confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory;' but the one
                                  resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed
                                  domination of the author."

                                  Applicability is therefore not an issue of allegory, but of reader
                                  interpretation, of which misrecognition of allegory (or
                                  misidentification of something as allegorical) is one example.

                                  If one sees a racist perspective from the author's hand in THE LORD
                                  OF THE RINGS, one may be applying one's own personal knowledge or
                                  experience to the text. But that does not mean the author injected a
                                  racist perspective into the text. The perception of racism may be
                                  very applicable, but nonetheless may be very wrong, if the author was
                                  not a racist and his intention was something other than to write a
                                  racist story.

                                  The mallet illustration is certainly crude and negative, but I don't
                                  have much time for online discussion while I'm at work, and don't
                                  bring my library with me. If I can remember to when I get home (and
                                  I have to admit there is a good chance I will NOT remember to do
                                  this), I'll look up Tolkien's reply to Fr. Robert Murray, which (I
                                  think) contains one of his discussions of "applicability".
                                • Stolzi@aol.com
                                  In a message dated 9/24/01 10:51:01 AM Central Daylight Time, ... So, I wonder if Manwe=Michael and Melkor=Lucifer in comparing this scheme to Christian
                                  Message 16 of 18 , Sep 24, 2001
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                                    In a message dated 9/24/01 10:51:01 AM Central Daylight Time,
                                    dbratman@... writes:

                                    > Manwe is said to be
                                    > Melkor's brother in Iluvatar's mind, and the chief instrument of the
                                    > _second_ theme.
                                    >

                                    So, I wonder if Manwe=Michael and Melkor=Lucifer in comparing this scheme to
                                    Christian angelology?

                                    IE, Lucifer (Satan) first among the Angels before his fall, Michael
                                    "commander of the heavenly host" afterwards (and see Milton on this)

                                    Diamond Proudbrook
                                  • David S. Bratman
                                    ... The resemblance is very striking. David Bratman
                                    Message 17 of 18 , Sep 24, 2001
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                                      At 03:38 PM 9/24/2001 , Mary S. wrote:

                                      >So, I wonder if Manwe=Michael and Melkor=Lucifer in comparing this scheme to
                                      >Christian angelology?
                                      >
                                      >IE, Lucifer (Satan) first among the Angels before his fall, Michael
                                      >"commander of the heavenly host" afterwards (and see Milton on this)

                                      The resemblance is very striking.

                                      David Bratman
                                    • Michael Martinez
                                      For what it s worth, I ve had a chance to browse the Letters and whatever I had in mind earlier today is not leaping out of the pages at me. I have certainly
                                      Message 18 of 18 , Sep 24, 2001
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                                        For what it's worth, I've had a chance to browse the Letters and
                                        whatever I had in mind earlier today is not leaping out of the pages
                                        at me.

                                        I have certainly found passages in the letters where Tolkien
                                        discusses applicability, and there is usually a reference to
                                        allegory, but there are also specific points concerning his
                                        intentions versus what people read into the text. For example, in
                                        Letter 183 he writes: "...This story is not about JRRT at all, and is
                                        at no point an attempt to allegorize his experience of life -- for
                                        that is what the objectifying of his subjective experience in a tale
                                        must mean, if anything." Not quite a reproach for reading more into
                                        the text than is there, but close.

                                        I may have been (incorrectly) thinking of Letter 337, in which
                                        Tolkien wrote: "I fear you may be right that the search for the
                                        sources of THE LORD OF THE RINGS is going to occupy acdemics for a
                                        generation of two. I wish this need not be so. To my mind it is the
                                        particular use in a particular situaton of any motive, whether
                                        invented, deliberately borrowed, or unconsciously remembered that is
                                        the most interesting thing to consider."

                                        Perhaps a passage which strikes closer to the mark I was aiming for
                                        is one in Letter 328, where Tolkien recalls a visit he had from
                                        someone (several years prior to writing the letter) who believed he
                                        had found Tolkien's inspirations in artwork:

                                        "I think I can now guess what Gandalf would reply. A few years ago I
                                        was visited in Oxford by a man whose name I have forgotten (though I
                                        believe he was well-known). He had been much struck by the curious
                                        way in which many old pictures seemed to him to have been designed to
                                        illustrate THE LORD OF THE RINGS long before its time. He broughht
                                        one or two reproductions. I think he wanted at first simply to
                                        discover whether my imagination had fed on pictures, as it clearly
                                        had been by certain kinds of literature and languages. When it
                                        became obvious that, unless I was a liar, I had never seen the
                                        pictures before and was not acquainted with pictorial Art, he fell
                                        silent. I became aware that he was looking fixedly at me. Suddenly
                                        he said: 'Of course you don't suppose, do you, that you wrote all
                                        that book yourself?'

                                        "Pure Gandalf! I was too well acquainted with G. to expose myself
                                        rashly, or to ask what he meant. I think I said: 'No, I don't
                                        suppose so any longer.' I have never since been able to suppose so.
                                        An alarming conclusion for an old philologist to draw concerning his
                                        private amusement...."

                                        Or, it could be that I was thinking of Tom Shippey's preface to the
                                        second edition of THE ROAD TO MIDDLE-EARTH after all, where he wrote:

                                        "Yet I do turn back to the letter Professor Tolkien wrote to me on 13
                                        April 1970, charmingly courteousand even flattering as it then was
                                        from one at the top of his profession to one at the bottom ('I don't
                                        like to fob people off with a formal thanks ... one of the nearest to
                                        my heart, or the nearest, of the many I have received ... I am
                                        honoured to have received your attention.') And yet, and yet ...
                                        What I should have realised -- perhaps did half-realise, for I speak
                                        the dialect myself -- was that this letter was written in the
                                        specialized politeness-language of Old Western Man, in which doubt
                                        and correction are in direct proportion to the obliquity of
                                        expression. The Professor's letter had invisible italics in it,
                                        which I now supply. 'I am in agreement with NEARLY all that you say,
                                        and I only regret that I have not the time to talk more about your
                                        paper: especially about design as it appears OR MAY BE FOUND in a
                                        large FINISHED work, and the ACTUAL events or experiences as seen or
                                        felt by the WAKING mind IN THE COURSE OF ACTUAL COMPOSTION.' It has
                                        taken me twenty years (and the perusal of fifteen volumes unpublished
                                        in 1970) to see the point of the italics. Tolkien, however, closed
                                        his letter to me with the proverb: 'Need brooks no delay, yet late is
                                        better than never?' I can only repeat his saying, question-mark and
                                        all."

                                        Well, it's hard to follow that up with anything better than a brief
                                        summation: I think that, when I wrote last week I thought Trudy
                                        Shaw's reference to the scene where Sam looks at the dead Southron
                                        mighht be a perfect example of Tolkien's use of "applicability", I
                                        was in fact confusing two related, very similar issues that are
                                        nonetheless probably viewed distinctly from each other by most
                                        people. That is, there is the issue of applicability versus
                                        allegory, and then there is the issue of determining where it all
                                        comes from versus simply accepting it for the story itself.


                                        Tolkien seemed to be constantly evading the probing questions of
                                        people who wanted to assign him to specialized slots, or pigeon-
                                        holes. The first Robert Murray letter (142) is summarized briefly,
                                        and Carpenter's closing remark in the header is: "[Murray] doubted
                                        whether many critics would be able to make much of the book -- 'they
                                        will not have a pigeon-hole neatly labelled for it.'"

                                        Tolkien agreed with him. I think we're still groping for the
                                        appropriately labelled pigeon-holes today, although in much
                                        different, far broader contexts than the critics of 1954 could ever
                                        possibly have imagined.
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