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varied dialogues in Middle Earth/use of aphorisms in daily speech

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  • odzer@aol.com
    ... I dunno, I understand the point you make, and surely such dialogue is, from a modern colloquial stance, a bit stiff and good fun to parody. But these ain t
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 19 1:25 PM
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      >some of the klunkers in Tolkien's dialogue...
      >trading of aphorisms by Gimli and Elrond just cries out to be
      >> parodized

      I dunno, I understand the point you make, and surely such dialogue is,
      from a modern colloquial stance, a bit stiff and good fun to parody. But
      these ain't modern folks! I really enjoy the distinctive flavor of the
      aphoristic passages throughout, and it seems to me to be especially
      consistent with with the cultural styles of dwarves and ancient elves that
      they tend towards such mannerisms of speech. Tolkien explicitly refers to the
      formal and idiomatic stylistic of dwarvish speech as something that they
      delight in, but which gets on Bilbos nerves sometimes when they go on and on
      with it endlessly.
      Yet Hobbits in certain moods like formalized speech too, such as when
      Faramir and Frodo discuss their formal agreements. Gollum in turn finds such
      elaborate turns of phrase highly irritating. Sam admires it, while at the
      same time knowing such fancy talk is a good sight more than he can muster. He
      relishes the flavorful morsels in the gaffer's ''word hoard'', earthy
      eloquence that amuses and sometimes bewilders Frodo.
      The English, in contrast to Americans, have many regional and class based
      styles of speech for a writer to choose from (though we have our regional
      flavors too) One can, or at least could in Tolkien's generation, discern what
      school or university someone came from by the manner in which they speak, not
      to mention social class or region. Tolkien discusses in one appendix how
      difficult it was to convey in the written word the sort of varied flavors
      that he imagined, which would be clearly evident in the spoken tongue.
      Gandalf is, of course, the master of linguistic styles, and shifts nimbly
      amongst different idioms with skill and flair, for e.g. either matching Sam's
      at sone points, or deliberately eschewing Saruman's at another,( which was
      even more extensive in earlier drafts) throwing aphorisms back at Wormtongue,
      etc, enjoying it all greatly in the process. Except where he felt compelled
      to use the black speech during the counsel of Elrond.
      Among the numerous ideas or themes which Tolkien was interested in but
      which he modified under pressure or persuasion from friends or publisher was
      his 'Hobbit talk'. Lewis in particular disliked it and urged him to keep to
      a minimum. This is discussed in one of the letters. I really enjoy the few
      surviving passages of banter between the hobbits, though this is probably the
      sort of dialogue that irritates some readers today just as it did Lewis.
      Returning briefly to the use of aphorisms in everyday speech, there even
      exists an interesting 'real world' parallel that I have experienced. I have
      some friends who grew up in eastern Tibet, which has a strong pre industrial,
      almost medieval, culture even up to this day. They are nomadic herders,
      traders, live in tents during the summer months, ride horses, uphold bardic
      song and musical traditions for entertainment (not much t.v. out there and
      mostly in chinese not Tibetan)- really romantic stuff! Anyway, these Tibetan
      friends habitually are inclined to intersperse topical aphorisms into
      everyday conversations, which they then laboriously try to translate for me
      in their barely adequate english. Some are drawn from traditional Buddhist
      sources, and others from rustic folk wisdom sayings, and these often overlap.
      When they share with me these Tibetan aphorisms, I often remember similar
      quaint old versions of them which exist in english, usually comming from old
      folk tales and songs and such. And it sometimes suprises me that I remember
      these old 'stich in time saves nine/one in the hand beats two in the bush'
      type expressions. My eastern Tibetan friends tell me the styles of speech in
      more cultured central Tibet are quite different, full of more elaborate
      elocution.
      It has been noted that popular television inflicts pithy hip phrases
      into our everyday speech with numbing regularity. One of the low points for
      me of the film FOTR was Aragon exclaiming ''Let's kick ass''.. .er, I mean
      "Let's hunt orc!"
      I can only hope more instances of verbatim quotes from the text have made it
      into subsequent installments of the films.

      with klunky verbiage of my own

      John Potts
    • trudygshaw
      ... From: odzer@aol.com To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Friday, July 19, 2002 3:25 PM Subject: [mythsoc] varied dialogues in Middle Earth/use of aphorisms in
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 20 7:25 AM
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        ----- Original Message -----
        From: odzer@...
        To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Friday, July 19, 2002 3:25 PM
        Subject: [mythsoc] varied dialogues in Middle Earth/use of aphorisms in daily speech


        > Tolkien explicitly refers to the formal and idiomatic stylistic of dwarvish speech as something that they delight in, but which gets on Bilbos nerves sometimes when they go on and on with it endlessly.
        The trading of aphorisms between Gimli and Elrond that's been referred to I've always seen (and enjoyed) as Elrond matching Gimli at his own game--and perhaps pointing out that game's limitations when it comes to making reasoned decisions, since almost every aphorism can be contradicted by another (e.g., "Act in haste; repent at leisure," vs. "He who hesitates is lost.").


        > Yet Hobbits in certain moods like formalized speech too, such as when
        Faramir and Frodo discuss their formal agreements.
        Although not as fluently as Gandalf, Frodo can also use various forms of speech depending on the circumstances and with whom he's speaking. He seems more able to do this than the other hobbits, but he's had more opportunity to develop the skill.

        > The English, in contrast to Americans, have many regional and class based
        styles of speech for a writer to choose from (though we have our regional
        flavors too) One can, or at least could in Tolkien's generation, discern what
        school or university someone came from by the manner in which they speak, not
        to mention social class or region. Tolkien discusses in one appendix how
        difficult it was to convey in the written word the sort of varied flavors
        that he imagined, which would be clearly evident in the spoken tongue.

        A European who posts on the same message board I do has dubbed the first movie-orc to speak at Isengard "Saruman's Eton-trained assistant." I don't know if that's precise (i.e., if it's specifically "Eton" speech), but certainly none of Tolkien's orcs spoke that way!

        This is definitely more difficult to express in writing, which is why most beginning fiction writers are warned away from it. Mark Twain was one of the best, and even in Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn I've sometimes had to read a line aloud to figure out what's being said. Twain is also able to capture the variations among people who live within the same basic geographic area, which my Northern "ears" often miss unless they're pointed out to me.

        > I really enjoy the few surviving passages of banter between the hobbits, though this is probably the sort of dialogue that irritates some readers today just as it did Lewis.

        Maybe some readers, but I don't think the majority (at least I hope not), as they speak more like us than any of the other groups. IIRC, one reason the people of Minas Tirith assume Pippin must be of high rank is that he uses familiar speech when talking to Gandalf, which is all we modern American English speakers would use under any circumstances--just like hobbits.

        I enjoy the hobbit banter, too, especially as they seem to be masters of the quick-witted comeback. I have a list of comeback lines that currently numbers 11: 9 of them are replies by hobbits (most, but not all, from the more-educated type). Anyone who wants can see the list at http://www.tripod.members.com/afewwords_tgs/id64.htm -- I've hesitated to even mention my website on this list, as all the Tolkien material (as well as everything else on it, I'm sure) is well below the erudition level of anyone here--but on this particular page I let the hobbits do the talking. 8-)

        > It has been noted that popular television inflicts pithy hip phrases
        into our everyday speech with numbing regularity. One of the low points for
        me of the film FOTR was Aragon exclaiming ''Let's kick ass''.. .er, I mean
        "Let's hunt orc!"

        Well, it's "Let's hunt some orc," which is, indeed, a bit off from Aragorn's original line of "I am hunting orcs," when the Rohirrim ask what he's doing on their land.
        But there are times. I remember in Bakshi's movie it grated on my ears when Gandalf yelled, "Run for it!"--until I noticed that that's exactly what he says at that spot in the book.

        One of the interesting things in the current movie (and there's some of it in the preview for TTT--I haven't seen the trailer) is the use of direct-from-Tolkien dialogue at a different place in the story than the book uses it. The most noticeable is the transfer of much of the conversation between Gandalf and Frodo from "The Shadow of the Past" to their movie conversation in Moria; the tone and shades of meaning--even of precisely identical lines--are also altered because of the circumstances and because the relationship between Frodo and Gandalf is so different from what exists in the book.
        But--because I kind of like them--I was glad to find a precedent for movie-Sam's "I don't mean to" lines. He's talking about Gildor & company, though, rather than Gandalf: '*Don't you leave him!* they said to me. *Leave him!* I said. *I never mean to.*' And Sam isn't one to change his meaning based on the circumstances. 8-)

        BTW, I've basically used John's message as a catch-all, so this got kind of long for a single post. I've been reading what others have said during the week, but didn't have time to post until the weekend; life will be like that for awhile, I'm afraid.

        -- Trudy
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        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • jamcconney@aol.com
        In a message dated 7/20/2002 9:27:19 AM Central Daylight Time, ... Frankly I think almost all fiction writers, amateur or not, are well warned away. I am
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 20 2:40 PM
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          In a message dated 7/20/2002 9:27:19 AM Central Daylight Time,
          tgshaw@... writes:


          > This is definitely more difficult to express in writing, which is why most
          > beginning fiction writers are warned away from it. Mark Twain was one of
          > the best, and even in Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn I've sometimes had to
          > read a line aloud to figure out what's being said. Twain is also able to
          > capture the variations among people who live within the same basic
          > geographic area, which my Northern "ears" often miss unless

          Frankly I think almost all fiction writers, amateur or not, are well warned
          away. I am speaking of the attempts, very common in the late 19th-early 20th
          century to provide phonetic spellings of accents and dialect. Not only Twain
          fell into this trap; so did some other very fine writers, notably Kipling and
          Crane (Some of _Soldiers Three_ and _Maggie Girl of the Streets_ are
          virtually unreadable except by masochistic English majors.)

          Fortunately writers (for the most part) have now learned that it's possible
          to convey dialect by means of rhythms, word usage and sentence structuring
          and are ( except for the easily readable 'gonna' et el) sparing us the
          tortured misspellings of the past.

          Jamaq


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • David J Finnamore
          ... I fully share that POV, John. Tolkien s use of language, whether it be dialogue or narrative, is one of my favorite things about his books, and one of my
          Message 4 of 4 , Jul 21 5:46 AM
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            odzer@... wrote:

            > I dunno, I understand the point you make, and surely such dialogue is,
            > from a modern colloquial stance, a bit stiff and good fun to parody. But
            > these ain't modern folks! I really enjoy the distinctive flavor of the
            > aphoristic passages throughout, and it seems to me to be especially
            > consistent with with the cultural styles of dwarves and ancient elves that
            > they tend towards such mannerisms of speech.

            I fully share that POV, John. Tolkien's use of language, whether it be dialogue
            or narrative, is one of my favorite things about his books, and one of my least
            favorite things about the movie. In fact, I hadn't thought about it quite this
            way before, but the dumbing down of the language for the movie is probably a
            chief reason why it doesn't *feel* like Middle-earth to me, even though it
            *looks* quite convincingly like it, most places. I had no need for Patsy to tell
            me it was "only a model."



            > Among the numerous ideas or themes which Tolkien was interested in but
            > which he modified under pressure or persuasion from friends or publisher was
            > his 'Hobbit talk'. Lewis in particular disliked it and urged him to keep to
            > a minimum. This is discussed in one of the letters. I really enjoy the few
            > surviving passages of banter between the hobbits

            Would an example be the scene in the Green Dragon Inn early in LotR, with the
            discussion of the danger of boats, and the Gaffer defending Bilbo's reputation?
            That's a favorite passage of mine. I wish there were a great deal more of it.
            Oddly, though, it's hard for me NOT to hear it in rural Southern American
            accents. Having grown up in the rural South, I've heard a lot of like banter.
            You can never hear too much of that, IMO.



            > I can only hope more instances of verbatim quotes from the text have made it
            > into subsequent installments of the films.

            Never hurts to dream, I guess.


            > with klunky verbiage of my own

            Not all that klunks is broken.


            --
            David J. Finnamore
            Nashville, TN, USA
            http://www.elvenminstrel.com
            --
            "Many Christian apologists who talk about worldviews ... write as if worldview
            construction was simply a matter of deductive reasoning ... [They] either ignore
            or deny the power of the imaginative and affective matrix within which such
            deductive work takes place." - Ken Myers
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