Discussion in 'Community' started by -Courtney-, Nov 25, 2006.
Here's the video to the MTV Award that Gollum won
Chris Tokien must've loved that.
You win award for best comment
At least the "infodump", as you call it, had a modicum of utility in the wider framework of the story, unlike, say, the 30+ pages about the history of the Paris sewer system we get in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables (which is nevertheless hailed as a masterpiece of French and Western literature). It was a different era, with different writing styles. Tolkien, "as is", may not have gotten published nowadays. It doesn't mean that his style is inherently bad.
1. Sauron was slowly regaining his power, and had not fully recovered yet. And if a "weak" Sauron still managed to corrupt Saruman and launch hordes of Orcs upon Gondor and Rohan, actually endangering their very livelihood, then I shudder to think what he would have been able to do had he actually regained the One Ring. And in the SW OT, we never get to see a direct confrontation between the heroes and the Emperor until the very end, either. Does that make it a less satisfying narrative? I would say no.
2. The Valar, via Gandalf as the new head of the Istari, had previously effectively stripped Saruman of his more damaging powers, though he still had some of his power of persuasion. Grima taking Saruman with him is not unlike Vader throwing Palpatine down the reactor shaft. A moment of distraction can be your downfall, and more powerful men in history have been brought down by lesser persons (the assassination of Marat by Charlotte Corday springs to mind).
3. The Istari were expressively forbidden by the Valar to meddle directly in the affairs of Middle-Earth, only allowed to unleash their powers in front of an equally powerful foe (like Gandalf going against the Balrog). In other words, they were allowed to nudge people in the right direction, but not to shove them, which is consistent with Tolkien's emphasis on the burden of choice throughout his works.
As I said above, Tolkien wrote at a different time, where expository prose was more widely accepted. Maybe it's because I'm a Lit student, but I am just more inclined to read Tolkien as being part of a larger literary tradition, and do not judge his work as a lone offering. In my case, at least, the positives far outweigh whatever negatives there might be, and I prefer to focus on the general balance, which is so far in Tolkien's favour, seeing as his works are part of the shortlist we call "literary classics". Maybe that is indeed subjective of me. But so is your own point of view.
Tolkien kind of just made a generic villain to be honest. Yeah hes a more famous generic villain but tell me why Sauron wants to take over middle earth? What does he gain? To be evil for the sake of it? Whats his motivation?
Im not being rude I'm seriously asking, nothing in the movies explains this. They just say he wants the ring and to conquer. Ok. To what end? The end of men? Why?
Control and authority. Read The Silmarillion if you're interested in Sauron's backstory. The movies present him as a force of evil, as does the written Lord of the Rings - Tolkien's quite clearly aping the style of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic mythologies when dealing with the more explicitly high fantasy aspects. Tolkien essentially created an entire genre on his own - high fantasy - and deserves acknowledgement for that, if nothing else. His style of writing has more in common with, say, Tennyson, Shelley, et al than any real contemporaries (and that's not to say he rivals them, simply that his style is deliberately old-fashioned). He's crafting something more in line with myth than literature (and again, not saying that's inherently better or worse than anything) because that's his background. Tolkien was a philologist and linguist, not to mention a scholar of Beowulf and literatures of antiquity. Lord of the Rings is a product of that. The Hobbit was a story for his kids that was revised and retconned(!) following his work on The Lord of the Rings. He'd made these languages, these cultures, etc etc etc, and this was what he did with them. It's pretty impressive creatively if not literarily.
That said - the great grand work of Lord of the Rings was written between 1937 and 1949, and guess who else was writing in that time?
Folks like Hemingway. Indeed, Fitzgerald, Stein, Faulkner, Callaghan, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, nearly the entire school of modernist writers - and many of these names are writing and published before Tolkien's even gotten The Hobbit out.
So while I will gladly accept that Tolkien's style and prose are deliberate and a conscious effort to emulate the various mythic cycles he had studied, I can't accept that he was just another product of his times.
What Penguinator said, but if you want more details, here is a link to Sauron's history:
Well, both Tolkien and Joyce have this in common: they used mythology as a basis for their work (or at least, their better-known work). But where Joyce proposed a deconstruction of myth in his Ulysses, Tolkien proposed a reconstruction of the same in his legendarium.
Also, it can indeed be said that Tolkien is a product of his times. While he may not have subscribed to the main literary movements, his work was indeed written in reaction to his experiences of the world: the horror of World War I, the rampant destruction wrought by savage industrialization. In this, Tolkien is, in my opinion, the last defendant of the Preraphaelism and Art Nouveau movements, which sought to integrate natural forms in our daily lives, and to refer to old myths as a means of escapism in front of the harsh realities of the time.
I would even go as far as to say that Tolkien, in many ways, anticipated the literary movement known as Magical Realism, which is defined as "a kind of modern fiction in which fabulous and fantastical events are included in a narrative that otherwise maintains the 'reliable' tone of objective realistic report, designating a tendency of the modern novel to reach beyond the confines of realism and draw upon the energies of fable, folk tale, and myth while maintaining a strong contemporary social relevance." (Wikipedia) All his works, but more particularly the LOTR trilogy, are presented as "objective reports" of the times described herein, with descriptions of the lands and customs of the peoples of Middle-Earth, yet contain magical elements which are unexplainable through science: the power of the Ring, the waking of the Ents, the lore of Elves and Dwarves...
The fact that his literature doesn't exactly correspond with what immediately springs to mind when one thinks of the period around World War II doesn't mean that he wasn't a product of his time. On the contrary.
Here is the poster for TDOS in China:
It is, shall I say, most impressive.
Ah, but in his own words, his work is applicable, not allegorical. That is to say, he was not consciously writing in response to anything, but he wasn't discounting that it could be interpreted as a response. If we're talking about Tolkien as a product of his particular literary and artistic times, it doesn't quite add up, given the massive experimentation, innovation, and progression in literary writing - though it can be easily argued that he was innovative, progressive, and an experimenter, he's definitely not a modernist. Again, I'm not attempting to paint Tolkien in a negative light, I'm simply saying I don't see him as belonging to that particular movement or school of thought; to call him just a product of his times is to ignore the historical and literary contexts of the era, not to mention his own influences and antecedents.
He is absolutely a student of history and (in my opinion) antiquity. You mention Preraphaelism and Art Nouveau - I'd argue Tolkien is almost part of Romanticism, albeit a hundred years too late. If you compare his work to that of his contemporaries, he's doing a very very different thing - and that's okay, that's totally fine, I just don't believe we can chalk up his work to, "Well, that's how people wrote/Those were the times." It doesn't add up.
EDIT: And can I just say, it has been far too long since I've had this sort of debate and discussion. I miss my ol' English lit courses...
But Tolkien was also living in a time fraught with ideological deviations, and wrongful recuperations of previous works, which the Nazi movement (to name a sole example) was quite wont to do. It is understandable, then, that Tolkien would seek to defend himself against such ill uses of his works, and would speak out against such practices. For example, it would have been interesting to know what Wagner would have thought of the Nazi's use of his music. Tolkien, seeing this, might only have wanted to prevent the same happening to his writings. Moreover, as a scholar, he would have been quite sentitive to the right use of sources, etc..., that comes with the profession, and wary of wrongful interpretations.
Still, I would like to draw a parallel with the Parnassianism, who came up with the doctrine of "art for art's sake", which stated that art shouldn't necessarily interpreted as pertaining to a political movement, nor necessarily make a political statement. It could be argued that, simply by making this statement, the tenants of the doctrine were indeed taking a political stance. The fact that such a stance wasn't explicit doesn't mean it wasn't there. Likewise, the fact that Tolkien wrote (and published) his legendarium is a stance in and of itself, though the actual content be presented as neutral.
Note that I didn't say that Tolkien was a modernist, either. I simply situated him in the larger context of literary history. And in front of an incipient (and quickly widespread) literary movement, one can declare themselves in accord or in disagrement. Seeing the bulk of Tolkien's literary offerings, and knowing his general thoughts on industrialization, not to mention the subject of his scholarly pursuits, it can indeed be inferred that he was reacting against the modernization of the Western way of life, offering his own answer in his legendarium.
I agree that he shares characteristics with the Romantic movement. However, I merely sought to present Tolkien as a bridge between two eras closer to his own times, as this seemed to be your main concern. I must say, though, that at the time he published his work, people seemed to be much more patient with long-winded prose. It is, after all, the same era that saw Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind become a bestseller. In cinema, as well, people didn't mind a slower pace (compare The Fall of the Roman Empire to its modern counterpart, Gladiator). In that respect, yes, we can say that he is a product of his times.
Happy to be of service!
I just came across a hilarious piece on DeviantArt...
The Oakenshield Commandments:
I must say I had myself a laugh with the entry concerning Fili and Kili braiding "unnecesary" adornments in Thorin's hair while he's sleeping.
I wish this version could have been in the film. Excellent job done by some fans.
What was the point of Stephan Fry's character exactly? He's a good actor and deserves better than this.
Are you following Oakentoons on DeviantArt?
Well, I'm sure they coerced him into taking a large sum of money for the role.
Happy B-Day Elijah Wood.
Yes happy birthday Kevin from Sin City.
Or Ryan from Wilfred
I thought you were implying that Willford Brimley ate Elijah Wood.
Maybe in Sin City 2.
Holy moly that's coming out in August.
For my fellow Tolkienites, here is a view of Middle-Earth from above:
Collector's Edition of Desolation of Smaug to come out April 8th
Yay I will not be getting that.