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Suite101 article for June 26, 2002

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  • michael_martinez2
    Sorry for the length of this, and for the HTML code. I ve devoted all my spare time over the past few days to working on this article and I am tired and need
    Message 1 of 3 , Jun 26, 2002
      Sorry for the length of this, and for the HTML code. I've devoted
      all my spare time over the past few days to working on this article
      and I am tired and need to get to bed. Don't have time to clean it
      up for general email.

      http://www.suite101.com/welcome.cfm/tolkien

      <b>The other way round</b>

      When <i>The Lord of the Rings</i> was first published, some reviewers
      apparently decided that "all the good [peoples were] just good, and
      the bad just bad." In indirect response to such complaints, Tolkien
      noted to one reader: "...the Elves were <i>not</i> wholly good or in
      the right" (Letter 154). Indeed, none of his characters were
      wholly "good" or "evil"; and Elrond acknowledged as much, telling the
      members of his council that "nothing is evil in the beginning. Even
      Sauron was not so."

      The Rohirrim are another example of a group who seem good but do evil
      (on occasion). The treason of Grima Wormtongue is foreshadowed by the
      rebellion of Freca and his son Wulf, who overthrows King Helm
      Hammerhand with the aid of Dunlendings, Easterlings, and Corsairs.
      But the Rohirrim engage in questionable behavior even as a people.
      When Theoden offers a great reward to Ghan-Buri-Ghan for leading his
      army to Minas Tirith, Ghan-Buri-Ghan only asks that the Rohirrim stop
      hunting his people like animals. The Rohirrim are thus not perfect,
      and sometimes readers have to be shown so. All too many people
      through the years have mistaken the Rohirrim for a pro-Fascist Nordic
      purity stereotype (completely unaware of Tolkien's opposition to the
      German Fascists and their racist views).

      Yet readers also focus on the Rohirrim for another reason: except for
      Eowyn, many people note, Tolkien put no strong women characters in
      his stories. Inevitably, people point to Galadriel and Luthien as
      counter-examples. Now, Galadriel does not play much of a role in
      <i>The Lord of the Rings</i>, and Luthien is barely mentioned. Even
      Eowyn's role is covered in the space of a few chapters (none of which
      are devoted exclusively to her). On the other hand, <i>The
      Silmarillion</i> provides more active roles for women. And
      <i>Unfinished Tales</i> offers tantalizing glimpses into the lives of
      several women (most notably, Galadriel).

      But in <i>The Lord of the Rings</i>, Eowyn is introduced as little
      more than throne-dressing for Theoden. She graduates to a promised
      reward for Grima Wormtongue, and then proceeeds to fall hopelessly in
      love with Aragorn, who (of course) rejects her for the noblest of
      reasons (his love is already given to another). Eowyn's long empty
      life fills her with despair, which leads her to seek a glorious death
      on the battlefield, and thus Tolkien's shield-maiden comes to life.
      Many an argument has swirled over the value Eowyn brings to what is
      mostly a "boy story". She is, in some ways, the one redeeming quality
      about the Rohirrim, and in other ways their most damning attribute.

      The Rohirrim inspire debate and division among Tolkien readers more
      than any other group, except perhaps the Elves. The Rohirrim are
      often compared to the Anglo-Saxons, and there are people who argue
      that the Rohirrim must be modelled on the Anglo-Saxons because
      Tolkien used Old English (Anglo-Saxon) to represent their language.
      It's merely a silly fiction, after all, that he was translating a
      lost book into modern English, and needed to represent forgotten
      languages with documented languages. The fallacy in this line of
      thought is twofold: first, it contradicts Tolkien's own admonition
      not to confuse the Rohirrim with Anglo-Saxons; and secondly, perhaps
      more importantly, it assumes that the Rohirrim make some sort of
      statement about Anglo-Saxon culture.

      In effect, if the Rohirrim are based on the Anglo-Saxons, they are an
      allegory (and a thinly disguised one). Such an identification thus
      makes Tolkien a liar twice over, because he noted on more than one
      occasion (including in the book's Foreword) that "I cordially dislike
      allegory in all its manifestations, and have always done so...." And
      yet, he acknowledges that there is an 'applicability' factor, noting
      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."

      He most certainly chose those final words carefully: "the purposed
      domination of the author." The peril of the One Ring, for the world
      at large, is its ability to confer upon its wielder (who must first
      control it) the ability to dominate the wills of others. It was for
      this reason that Sauron made the Ring. The domination of the author
      eliminates all purposeful study by the reader, and Tolkien really
      cannot have been pretending he would prefer something so stringent
      and restricting. The chief beauty of <i>The Lord of the Rings</i>
      lies outside the story itself: it has become many things to many
      people.


      <a href="http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/tolkien/93001"
      target="_blank">Read the full article here</a>
    • trudygshaw
      ... From: michael_martinez2 To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Wednesday, June 26, 2002 2:09 AM Subject: [mythsoc] Suite101 article for June 26, 2002 ... about
      Message 2 of 3 , Jun 26, 2002
        ----- Original Message -----
        From: michael_martinez2
        To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Wednesday, June 26, 2002 2:09 AM
        Subject: [mythsoc] Suite101 article for June 26, 2002


        >...She is, in some ways, the one redeeming quality
        about the Rohirrim, and in other ways their most damning attribute.


        Thought-provoking article, especially with our recent good/evil discussion.

        Gandalf admonishes those who were in a position to understand and respond to Eowyn's trapped (and, to her, degraded) life and didn't do so--especially Eomer. I appreciate that individuals are still shown here to be accountable for their own actions, or lack of them, and aren't allowed to get away with, "Well, that's how we do things," or even, "That's how we've *always* done things." Tolkien seems quite clear that there are times in any culture--even an ancient, respected one--when an individual may be called to be countercultural; if he were really trying to portray the culture as "all good," there would be no reason for this.

        --Trudy



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • michael_martinez2
        ... Oops! I apologize to everyone who came looking for The other way round and could not find it. I accidentally set the viewing date for July, not June.
        Message 3 of 3 , Jun 27, 2002
          --- In mythsoc@y..., "michael_martinez2" <michael@x> wrote:
          > Sorry for the length of this, and for the HTML code. I've devoted
          > all my spare time over the past few days to working on this article
          > and I am tired and need to get to bed. Don't have time to clean it
          > up for general email.
          >
          > http://www.suite101.com/welcome.cfm/tolkien

          Oops!

          I apologize to everyone who came looking for 'The other way round'
          and could not find it. I accidentally set the viewing date for July,
          not June. It should now be visible!

          The direct link I provided at the bottom of my notice worked, and a
          few people found it that way. Hope the rest of you can find it
          now. :o
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