Amph Mythology in The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars

Discussion in 'Archive: SF&F: Books and Comics' started by Strilo, Mar 30, 2006.

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  1. Strilo Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Aug 6, 2001
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    I took a Tolkien Studies class last Spring at my University. For the final paper, I wrote on the subject of Tolkien and Lucas using mythology to tell their stories and create modern myths for our culture. I thought this might be an interesting topic of discussion for this forum. So without further ado, here is my paper:


    <center><u>Mythology in <i>The Lord of the Rings</i> and <i>Star Wars</i></u></center>
    &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;J.R.R. Tolkien and George Lucas set out to create modern myths rooted in the traditions of mythical story telling. Despite a difference of source material, <i>The Lord of the Rings</i> and the <i>Star Wars</i> films contain strikingly similar ideas and situations. This is due to the underlying commonalities in mythology from all over the world. But are these works modern myths? Exploring a number of the elements used in <i>The Lord of the Rings</i> and <i>Star Wars</i> and subjecting these elements to academic research of mythic storytelling answers this question.

    &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The late Joseph Campbell was one of the leading academic minds in the study of mythic storytelling. Rather than zeroing in on a specific field of study within the broad subject of mythology, Campbell deliberately focused on the big picture. He assimilated myths and legends from around the world and distilled them down to highlight the common ideas and themes in the stories told in diverse cultures. His deep knowledge of countless legends and stories from diverse sources allowed Campbell to hone in on minute details that are woven throughout the world?s myths. The result is a vast body of work by Campbell discussing the very fabric of mankind?s storytelling nature.

    &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;It is this storytelling nature that J.R.R. Tolkien and George Lucas consciously pulled from as they created the vast worlds of their life?s work. Tolkien stated that he ?had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic, to the level of romantic fairy-story? (Carpenter 144). Lucas describes the <i>Star Wars</i> saga as a ?traditional, ritualistic coming-of-age story? and mentions that he deliberately ?went into the mythological side of what I wanted to do? (<i>Empire of Dreams</i>). Tolkien drew large parts of his world from Norse and Celtic mythology, which he studied in great detail. Rather than analyzing and breaking down different mythologies as Tolkien did, Lucas took inspiration from the work of Joseph Campbell to create a mythic story. Because both approaches ultimately draw from the same mythological sources, many similarities exist between <i>The Lord of the Rings</i> and <i>Star Wars</i>.


    <center>The Worlds Themselves</center>
    &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Within the structure of the stories that comprise both <i>The Lord of the Rings</i> and the <i>Star Wars</i> film saga, the respective worlds themselves conform to ideas common in mythology. In an interview with Bill Moyers documented in the book <i>The Power of Myth</i>, Joseph Campbell comments that much of the Western world?s mythology is ?based on the idea of duality: good and evil, heaven and hell? (55). The theme of a battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil is one that surfaces in myth again and again.

    &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;In a macro-view of the story Tolkien is telling in <i>The Lord of the Rings</i>, the forces of good are seeking to defeat the forces of evil in Middle-earth. The One Ring represents the ultimate evil power in the world, which, if left unchecked, will enable the forces of evil to rule over all of Middle-earth. Gandalf, Aragorn, Galadriel and Elrond, among others, all do their part to lead the forces of good in a quest to destroy the Ring and thus rid the world of its great evil. In this very high-level overview of the story, the mythic struggle of good versus evil is readily apparent.

    &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;By distilling the overall story of the <i>Star Wars</i> saga down in a similar manner, the same st
  2. EDKRIEG Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2005
    star 1
    Good paper.Did you know there is a Star Wars Journal with Academic subjects online?I recall there was an article in an early issue dealing with much of what you said.Forgot the title since I have left subscription.Try a search engine for title.If I remember I will post it.
  3. Coruscant Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2004
    star 6
    Fun read! :)

    You did a good job with it, especially in seamlessly transitioning from an aspect in LotR to a similar aspect in SW. The flow didn't feel choppy, something I struggle with myself.

  4. arwen_sith Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2005
    star 4
    Thanks for writing a very interesting paper. However, it seems to me that you forgot the most important person in LotR, namely Frodo Baggins. The rest of the Fellowship were there mainly to help him get to Mordor and ultimately destroy the Ring.

    The Ewoks could perhaps be called the Hobbits of Star Wars. Both lack technology, and are perhaps underestimated by the larger intelligent beings in their respective worlds, but they have the capacity to rise to the occasion. The Ewok tree city could be a rustic version of Caras Galadhon.
  5. EDKRIEG Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2005
    star 1
    Strilo and others :the title s Saga Journal.You can google it up.Thought you'd like to check.BTW DONOT mention my name as I am considered persona non grata for something they did.
  6. droideka27 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    May 28, 2002
    star 7
    Awesome paper, Tim. Really neat to have all that pointed out. You are lucky to get to write a paper on something like that! I'm working on an 8 page paper today, but it is on Reform Judaism, its origins, how it changed in America, and my personal experiences going to a service. Interesting, but not like that paper!! *jealous*
  7. Strilo Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Aug 6, 2001
    star 8
    Yeah I feel lucky to have been able to take a Tolkien Studies class. Especially as I think the Professor is totally retired now.
  8. Excellence Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2002
    star 7

    !!!

    With only 8 pages, my you fellas had tertiay projects easy. We were told up front 8 pages could get you a C. I was giving 25 pages on average, sometimes on a weekly basis on top of everything else. Might be I cheated a wee bit with the 14 font. :p
  9. Strilo Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Aug 6, 2001
    star 8
    25 pages is ridiculous for anything less than a major research based term paper. This Tolkien course had 110 people. The professor would have been insane to assign 25 page papers. Personally I think learning the skill of being concise is more important than length. Having a paper with good ideas that flows well, is readable and gets to the point is more important than wow I wrote 25 pages. Some of the hardest papers I have had to write in Uni were 2 page papers on a film. The teacher wanted a fully mature thesis, argument and conclusion in two pages and more were not allowed. THAT is not easy.
  10. Zebra3 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 28, 2004
    star 5
    I quite agree Strilo. Padding a paper to make it longer is quite easy (believe me, I speak from experience) but saying what you want to say in a clear manner, now THAT's difficult.

    p.s. Great report ;)

    And out of curiosity, what grade did you get?
  11. Excellence Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2002
    star 7

    Two pages would indeed be challenging. You have no room to whaffle and must make every paragraph count.
  12. Strilo Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Aug 6, 2001
    star 8
    Every paragraph? No that's a normal paper. In a two page paper you have to make every WORD count.

    I got an A on the paper and an A in the course.
  13. Coruscant Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2004
    star 6
    I did a two-page paper once. As a Freshman, I would've loved it. Now I hate them. [face_frustrated]

    More of them to come, I fear. :(

  14. Amon_Amarth Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2005
    star 6
    Awesome read. =D=
    I'd like to go on a Tolkien studies class one day. :)
  15. The_Eye_of_Strilo Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 27, 2003
    star 2
    I consider myself quite lucky to have taken the course. I am sure Tolkien comes up from time to time in University level lit courses or maybe mythology. Certainly anything working with modern mythology should feature his work. I am curious if anyone else has had Tolkien come up in University courses.
  16. Excellence Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2002
    star 7

    I would have given that lecturer a headache in my views of Tokien. :D

    Tolkien and George Lucas set out to create modern myths rooted in the traditions of mythical story telling.

    I disagree with that part, though. It's the audience support that made those myths. If they were not popular they would not be talked about half a century later, the way a woman would generally not be in common movies if they weren't attractive. If SW was made last year, it'd have been no big deal; we're used to the special effects, and the chummy themes are nothing new. Age and an era when books were rarer and staler has enthroned LOTR.

    And why not? Were was modern technology and "liberal" ideas in his antiquated time that would allow a writer to book the way we do today, yesterday? Less than a mere 20yrs ago spaceport was hyphenated being "exotic". Endless landscape description was pretty much all they had there, and a tradionalist preference of telling than showing, which would preclude action scenes to moments we see.

    I'd have liked to comparison this overhyped tome to the Time Machine and 1897's Dracula, but the latter has mysteriously vanished, and all I have are the tidbits of preliminary reading. Stoker did have action scenes, and the former had two that I remember--both Morlock encounters in the dark.

    And from what I can see, there is precious little Star Wars-class space opera--what I call real traditional space opera--although where in Jabba's gut you get space "opera" from beats me--that makes SW distinctive, which in turn, I think, further enhances the SW "appeal."
  17. The_Eye_of_Strilo Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 27, 2003
    star 2
    Reading that post gave me a headache. So you are saying that Tolkien was not setting out to write a modern myth? Cuz he has directly stated so.
  18. Excellence Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2002
    star 7

    There you go. Is there not a difference between saying you're doing something, and how it's perceived by others?

    On one hand you have Terry Brooks claiming his early LOTR copying is respectful homage. To another, it's direct plagiarism (Mountains of Mist, Misty Mountains; Mount Dhoom, Mount Doom). Each instance has one view from the source, another exterior to it.

    In any case, I only said LOTR is (mistakenly) viewed with mythological acclaim due to its popularity. I doubt very much it'd be what it is today if few liked it.

    *Downloads asprin*
  19. The_Eye_of_Strilo Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 27, 2003
    star 2
    Except in this case, both Tolkien and the views from outside him agree that he was creating modern mythology.
  20. ShrunkenJedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2003
    star 5
    Indeed, especially in the Silmarillion. It's basically religious philosophy put into a fictional and mythic form.

    I must say... as a SW geek and a Tolkienophile, who is basically majoring in this sort of stuff for college, I heartily suport this thread! Way to go! :D
  21. The_Eye_of_Strilo Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 27, 2003
    star 2
    Yeah the Silmarillion is for sure a book of mythology. I don't see how that could really be disputed.
  22. Sauntaero Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 9, 2003
    star 4

    ?

    Are we talking about the same thing? A myth, as in a culture-story going back to the roots of time with essential truths or a pop-icon?

    IMO, Tolkien was #1, English; #2, a linguist; #3, a poet; and #4 ....
    He tried to create the type of stories that Anlgo-saxons would have heard and told (with a mystical twist).

    Action is not necessary in a myth, for a myth could be the travels of Israel through the desert. Wooot. But that is an integral part of Judeo-christian culture. Popularity is external, given to a work; mythic status is inherent in the telling of the tale itself.


    I haven't found any Tolkien classes to take yet!!! But---the fellow who wrote the elvish dialogue for the movies is a grad student at my U, and is rumoured to teach a class every so often.....
  23. Strilo Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Aug 6, 2001
    star 8
    Cross your fingers cuz I had such a cool time taking that class. I learned a lot and appreciate the books much more than I did before.
  24. Knight-8311 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 18, 2006
    star 1
    I think Star Wars focuses more on the good vs. evil and less on sub plots than LotR. Both have that good vs evil struggle in them. But in star wars its more etheral its always there. In LotR is a somewhat defeatable evil they fight. LotR and SW have great, deep charecters but LotR is more about separate groups of charecters playing different roles in the same quest and its great to see tied together. Star Wars is more of a war story that focuses on one group of charecters and has a lot going on behind the scenes that the average movie-goer wouldnt notice. LotR also deals with a little more history and vaster time periods than star wars. Example Saurons defeat appears to still be common knowledge 2500 years later! Lastly LotR was never intended to be a movie but it was developed into the second greatest trilogy ever. Star Wars seems to flow better on the big screen.
  25. Strilo Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Aug 6, 2001
    star 8
    Did you read the paper? Because I was not writing about the LOTR films at all. The paper uses ONLY the books.
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