Re: [mythsoc] RotK Theory
- At 04:26 PM 4/13/2003 -0400, Susan wrote:
>Well, it's one of the more *glaring* examples of Providence, let us say; andThat depends, in my view, entirely on how the author handles them. I do
>Tolkien's Providential worldview, in my experience, is one of the things that
>people who don't like the book tend not to like about it. If you don't
>believe in such things in the world, they merely seem hokey in fiction,
>rather than wonderful.
not see the world as Tolkien does: but Tolkien enables me to see it as he
does. That is the greatest achievement of any author, surely: to enable
readers of different bents to see inside their minds and inhabit their
>And if you do believe in them in the world, sometimesI felt the same way, and so did Berni. Either Shyamalan doesn't really
>they *still* seem hokey in fiction: "Signs" is a good example of this. I
>have as Providential a worldview as anyone I know, and I detested that movie
>because so much of it was cheap string-pulling; one of my parish priests felt
>exactly the same way.
believe in the view his films propose, or he has a shallow and slick
theology, which would be a shame considering the high level of his
craft. The problem with "Signs" is that it postulates God pushing
characters around like chess pieces, to accomplish weirdly specific things
which, were God so immersed in minutiae, He could have arranged not to need
to happen in the first place; and, were He so minded to do such things to
cause characters to regain their faith, He is just as responsible for
having caused them to lose it in the first place.
Something similar is going on in the latest episodes of the TV series
"Angel", where it is being postulated that all the characters have been
moved around, and some indeed have been born in the first place, for the
sole purpose of being in the right place at the right time to do specific
things, usually either accidentally or otherwise inadvertently, when those
things could just as easily have been accomplished in some other way.
Tolkien does not do anything like that. His Providence never pushes around
characters, it merely lays opportunities out for them, opportunities which
the characters then have to seize, and by doing so, prove their
mettle. For instance, Merry and Eowyn fulfill a prophecy when they kill
the Witch-King, but they are never forced or manipulated into doing it:
they each have to seize their courage on their own initiative, and do so
more than once each, in order to get into that position. There is never
any sense that either was born to do this one thing, or provided with a
specific character trait in order to do it, the way Shyamalan does with his
glasses of water and baseball bats.
>Usually I find Tolkien's view of Providence moving and compelling. SometimesThat is only improbable if one is minded to dismiss it casually.
>his symbolism strains my credibility, though, as when Aragorn finds the beryl
>in the middle of the bridge: the elves have evidently been flinging
>gemstones around just in case he passes that way, and the thing hasn't gotten
>covered in mud, and none of the bad guys have found it first and picked it
The Elves aren't "flinging" stones around on off-chances. Their minds
don't work that way. We learn why the stone was there: Glorfindel left it
as a token, as he tells Frodo when they meet. He was specifically looking
for Frodo, and others looking in other directions might have left their own
tokens, which do not come into this story. (And why was he
looking? Because Elrond had sent him out. And why did Elrond do
so? Glorfindel explains that too: because Gildor, the Elf that the hobbits
had met in the Shire, had sent word that the Enemy was hunting Frodo. See?
Tolkien leaves no loose ends to be explained by "somehow, I just knew.")
Aragorn specifically takes its presence as a sign that it's safe to pass --
I suppose because if the bad guys were around, they would have found it
first, but more importantly because it tells him that Glorfindel, or
someone like him, has been in the area recently, so he and the hobbits are
not entirely alone and friendless in the wilderness. He is on the bridge
specifically looking for tracks and clues, and if anyone can find a
gemstone covered in mud, he can. (It _was_ in the mud: he says so.)
>I suppose that scene could be compared to the later one when the threePerhaps because you've seen the occasion it was placed there, and why this
>hunters find the broach of Lothlorien, but I have far less trouble with the
>second, for some reason.
was done; and in the vastness of Rohan, with the orcs already passing, it's
less improbable for it not to have been found; and because by this time
we've seen Aragorn's skill as a tracker, so we know what he can do.
- David Bratman
- At 07:09 PM 5/16/2003 , Ernest wrote:
>It hardly matters anyway, because the plot of _Forbidden Planet_,Yes.
>although obviously derivative from _The Tempest_, is not the same as that
>of _The Tempest_ except in its broadest outlines.
>Yes, E. E. Smith's prose was preciously purple, but is it really _bad_?Bad can still be enjoyable. I know people who enjoy this stuff, but mostly
>I think it's quite enjoyable, in truth.
because they read it in impressionable youth. That doesn't make it any
>I honestly prefer Doc Smith's heavily stylized but exciting pulp styleThat might be in large part because it would be shorter and punchier if Doc
>to the styles that are in vogue today. I think I might have actually
>finished (say) _Moving Mars_ if Doc Smith had written it.
Smith wrote it. Not for the quality of the prose. SF prose today may well
be, as you say, largely mediocre: but mediocre is still much better than bad.
>If you want bad writing, try rereading _Foundation_ or its successorsI've re-read the Foundation books, and I've re-read SF from the 30s. The
>again. Oy! Asimov at his best was top-notch--I'll put "The Dead Past"
>on the list of best short stories I've read, SF or no--but he was rarely
>at his best.
Foundation books' prose, while still pulpish, is a significant advance over
the typical 30s product. I agree that it's hardly worth holding up to
praise, either, and Asimov himself in later life would not have done so.
How to identify Asimov's better fictional prose: 1) he wrote it after 1950
[that eliminates the original Foundation books, which despite their
copyright dates were written & published in the 1940s]; 2) he did not write
it at the behest of his publishers [that eliminates the dreadful late
novels, which were all written because the publishers wanted new novels
from him, as well as various lame series fiction]. His best fiction was
some (not all) of his 1950s novels, and much of his stand-alone short
fiction from circa 1950 onwards.
The Niven piece on teleportion is "The Theory and Practice of
Teleportation", in his 1971 paperback collection _All the Myriad Ways_, but
probably not elsewhere. The ideas he discusses in this essay he put to use
in a story a couple years later titled "Flash Crowd" (in his 1973 pb
collection _The Flight of the Horse_, and probably elsewhere). This story
is now considered somewhat prescient, as "flash crowd" is now an
established term for crowds of people who form on extremely short notice,
through word of mouth (spread not by teleporter but cell phone) where
something interesting is happening.
- David Bratman