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Lord of the Rings: Criticism, Analysis, etc

24

Posts

  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    I don't think you can actually deny that Lord of the Rings presents a simplistic black and white morality. Some characters may waver between one or the other, but in general terms what is good is good, and what is evil is evil.

    The closest it ever comes to a moral complexity is the Noldor, but they proceed to pretty swiftly kick the dog undermining any real ambiguity.

    While racing light mechs, your Urbanmech comes in second place, but only because it ran out of ammo.
  • streeverstreever Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    I don't think you can actually deny that Lord of the Rings presents a simplistic black and white morality. Some characters may waver between one or the other, but in general terms what is good is good, and what is evil is evil.

    The closest it ever comes to a moral complexity is the Noldor, but they proceed to pretty swiftly kick the dog undermining any real ambiguity.

    No, I never argued that it *didn't*--but I definitely argue that it is not an objective standard of quality. Many people view morality as black and white. Many of them are even reasonable in their viewpoint, or using a completely different context than what you or I might use. I personally don't adhere to a black and white viewpoint, but it does not objectively or fundamentally reduce the value of a work of art to present such a view.

    I guess I take three issues with his criticism. One is that his plot hole critiques ignore the actual narrative at points and focus on his reading that Tolkien had no idea what was going on in the plot until he wrote it. Two is that he seems dedicated to making analogies between the real-world and the books and racism/genocide in the real world, holding Tolkien up as some sort of apologist or sympathizer. Third is that he believes that black and white morality is an objective measure of quality.

    While he's right to some degree on point one (there are certainly some weaknesses in the plot and pacing), he's absolutely incorrect on items two and three, and his argument for item one is flawed and poorly thought-out. For him to simply drop that out as some significant literary criticism and attempt to paint people who disagree with him as not being sophisticated enough to comprehend shades of grey is a bit goose-ish.

  • AvicusAvicus Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Melkster wrote: »
    Qingu wrote: »
    Cheezy wrote: »
    Whenever I hear people criticize Tolkien for not maximizing utility within the fictional world, I realize they are geese of the silliest sort and stop listening to them. There wouldn't have been a story if they had taken Skybus!
    I think you're being silly (but not goosey, I wouldn't go that far). Tolkien's plotting is not above reproach. There are fantasy books with tighter plotting than LoTR.

    Keep in mind that Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings to create a world. He added in the plot after he came up with the world. The world does not exist to advance the plot. The plot was created to give life to that world.

    Compare that approach to Phillip Pullman's approach, where the world exists only for the plot.

    I think Tolkien's approach is the more rare one. It's more complicated and it's difficult -- and it is a perfectly valid criticism to say that his books don't have the tightest plot.

    I like how he created the entire world because one day he was like "Hmm England doesn't have a mythology. It isn't fair! Ima create my own!"

    stephen_coop.gifkim_coop.gifscott_guitar.gif
  • Cameron_TalleyCameron_Talley Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Avicus wrote: »
    Melkster wrote: »
    Qingu wrote: »
    Cheezy wrote: »
    Whenever I hear people criticize Tolkien for not maximizing utility within the fictional world, I realize they are geese of the silliest sort and stop listening to them. There wouldn't have been a story if they had taken Skybus!
    I think you're being silly (but not goosey, I wouldn't go that far). Tolkien's plotting is not above reproach. There are fantasy books with tighter plotting than LoTR.

    Keep in mind that Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings to create a world. He added in the plot after he came up with the world. The world does not exist to advance the plot. The plot was created to give life to that world.

    Compare that approach to Phillip Pullman's approach, where the world exists only for the plot.

    I think Tolkien's approach is the more rare one. It's more complicated and it's difficult -- and it is a perfectly valid criticism to say that his books don't have the tightest plot.

    I like how he created the entire world because one day he was like "Hmm England doesn't have a mythology. It isn't fair! Ima create my own!"

    Eh, not exactly. He created the world to fit the languages he created. Some of which were based on Old English (Rohan is basically Anglo-Saxon England).

    3DS code: 0404-6826-4588 PM if you add.
  • valiancevaliance Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Avicus wrote: »
    Melkster wrote: »
    Qingu wrote: »
    Cheezy wrote: »
    Whenever I hear people criticize Tolkien for not maximizing utility within the fictional world, I realize they are geese of the silliest sort and stop listening to them. There wouldn't have been a story if they had taken Skybus!
    I think you're being silly (but not goosey, I wouldn't go that far). Tolkien's plotting is not above reproach. There are fantasy books with tighter plotting than LoTR.

    Keep in mind that Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings to create a world. He added in the plot after he came up with the world. The world does not exist to advance the plot. The plot was created to give life to that world.

    Compare that approach to Phillip Pullman's approach, where the world exists only for the plot.

    I think Tolkien's approach is the more rare one. It's more complicated and it's difficult -- and it is a perfectly valid criticism to say that his books don't have the tightest plot.

    I like how he created the entire world because one day he was like "Hmm England doesn't have a mythology. It isn't fair! Ima create my own!"

    Eh, not exactly. He created the world to fit the languages he created. Some of which were based on Old English (Rohan is basically Anglo-Saxon England).

    It really is a bit of both. He talks extensively about both reasons in letters (some of which are reprinted in the beginning of the silmariliion)


    and a bit of (slightly OT) levity from http://www.mark-shea.com/LOTR.html:
    The Lord of the Rings: A Source-Criticism Analysis

    Experts in source-criticism now know that The Lord of the Rings is a redaction of sources ranging from the Red Book of Westmarch (W) to Elvish Chronicles (E) to Gondorian records (G) to orally transmitted tales of the Rohirrim (R). The conflicting ethnic, social and religious groups which preserved these stories all had their own agendas, as did the "Tolkien" (T) and "Peter Jackson" (PJ) redactors, who are often in conflict with each other as well but whose conflicting accounts of the same events reveals a great deal about the political and religious situations which helped to form our popular notions about Middle Earth and the so-called "War of the Ring.". Into this mix are also thrown a great deal of folk materials about a supposed magic "ring" and some obscure figures named "Frodo" and "Sam". In all likelihood, these latter figures are totems meant to personify the popularity of Aragorn with the rural classes.

    Because The Lord of the Rings is a composite of sources, we may be quite certain that "Tolkien" (if he ever existed) did not "write" this work in the conventional sense, but that it was assembled over a long period of time by someone else of the same name. We know this because a work of the range, depth, and detail of The Lord of the Rings is far beyond the capacity of any modern expert in source-criticism to ever imagine creating themselves.

    The tension between source materials and the various redactors is evident in several cases. T is heavily dependent upon Gondorian records and clearly elevates the claims of the Aragorn monarchy over the House of Denethor. From this it is obvious that the real "War of the Ring" was a dynastic struggle between these two clans for supremacy in Gondor. The G source, which plays such a prominent role in the T-redacted account of Aragorn, is significantly downplayed by the PJ redactor in favor of E versions. In the T account, Aragorn is portrayed as a stainless saint, utterly sure of his claims to the throne and so self-possessed that he never doubts for a moment his right to seize power. Likewise, in the T account, the Rohirrim are conveniently portrayed as willing allies and vassals to the Aragorn monarchy, living in perfect harmony with the Master Race of Numenoreans who rule Gondor.

    Yet even the T redactor cannot eliminate from the R source the towering Amazon figure of Eowyn, who is recorded as taking up arms the moment the previous king of Rohan, Theoden, is dead. Clearly we are looking at a heavily reworked coup d'etat attempt by the princess of the Rohirrim against Aragorn's supremacy. Yet this hard kernel of historical fact is cleverly sublimated under folk materials (apparently legends of the obscure figure of "Meriadoc"). Instead of the historical account of her attempt on Aragorn's throne as it originally stood in R, she is instead depicted as engaging in battle with a mythical "Lord of the Nazgul" (apparently a figure from W sources) and shown fighting on Aragorn's side. This attempt to sublimate Eowyn does not convince the trained eye of the source-criticism expert, who astutely notes that Eowyn is wounded in battle at the same moment Denethor dies. Obviously, Eowyn and Denethor were in league against Aragorn but were defeated by the latter's partisans simultaneously.

    This tendency to distort the historical record recurs many times in T. Indeed, many scholars now believe the so-called "Madness of Denethor" in T (which depicts Denethor as a suicide) is, in fact, a sanitized version of the murder of Denethor by Aragorn through the administration of poison (possibly distilled from a plant called athelas).

    In contrast to T, the PJ redaction of Aragorn is filled with self-doubts and frequently rebuked by PJ-redacted Elrond. Probably this is due to PJ's own political and religious affiliations which seek, in particular, to exalt the Elvish claims to supremacy against Numenorean claims.

    T suggests some skill on Aragorn's part in the use of pharmaceutical (and hallucinogenic?) plants which may account for some of the more "visionary" moments of mysterious beings like "Black Riders" who appear to have been tribal chieftains hostile to the Aragorn dynasty. PJ, however, exalts Elrond's healing powers over Aragorn's. This is probably rooted in some incident of psychosomatic healing repeatedly chronicled in different sources. Thus, the G source also has an account of Frodo's "healing by Aragorn" on the Field of Cormallen but E places it at Rivendell and attributes the healing to Elrond. Since we know that "Frodo" is likely just a figure representing the rural population and not an historical personage, most scholars therefore conclude that "Frodo's" healing is just T's symbolic representation of Aragorn's program of socio-economic appeasement of the agrarian class, while his healing by Elrond is a nature myth representing the renewal of the annual crops.

    Of course, the "Ring" motif appears in countless folk tales and is to be discounted altogether. Equally dubious are the "Gandalf" narratives, which appear to be legends of a shamanistic figure, introduced to the narrative by W out of deference to local Shire cultic practice.

    Finally, we can only guess at what the Sauron sources might have revealed, since they must have been destroyed by victors who give a wholly negative view of this doubtlessly complex, warm, human, and many-sided figure. Scholars now know, of course, that the identification of Sauron with "pure evil" is simply absurd. Indeed, many scholars have undertaken a "Quest for the Historical Sauron" and are searching the records with growing passion and urgency for any lore connected with the making of the One Ring. "It's all legendary, of course," says Dr. S. Aruman, "Especially the absurd tale of Frodo the Nine-Fingered. After all, the idea of anyone deliberately giving up Power is simply impossible and would call into question the most precious thesis of postmodern ideology: that everything is a power struggle on the basis of race, class and gender. Still... I... should... very much like to have a look at it. Just for scholarly purposes, of course."

    Copyright 2003 - Mark P. Shea

  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    @Cheesy, streever, etc: I want to make a couple of points, because you guys seem to think that I'm being more critical of LoTR than I actually am.

    1. I don't think LoTR is "bad." I think it's one of the greatest works of literature in the 20th century. (Though, I like the Silmarillion better, and I think the first half of Fellowship and the last half of Return are utter shit by any standard and I am prepared to defend this assessment.)

    2. My problem with the orcs isn't that I think they're racist. I think there may be some troubling undertones, because they're dark skinned, but they're clearly not an analog for any human race. Rather, my problem with the orcs is that they are one-dimensional evil monsters that can be slayed without any moral ambiguity, like the Nazis in an Indiana Jones movie (which also bothers me, by the way). Which brings me to point number 3:

    3. Morality. Now, I'm sympathetic to the argument that LoTR is written in the style of a fairy tale, or an epic, or both (which is more true as he starts writing it as a fairy tale and finishes as an epic), and therefore it's okay that there are one-dimensional monsters and pure evil gods that tempt you away from virtue because that's just the style. I'm sympathetic to this argument, but it's not exactly a valid argument. Because actually, there are many myths—including ones from the Western culture that Tolkien is internalizing here, namely the Iliad—that do not do this, that actually present morality in realistic and humanist terms.

    And I think it's important to do this. I think, all things being equal, a work of fiction that presents morality in complex grays is "better" than one that does not. Certainly there are exceptions, but I'd argue there are fewer than you think. I think "Avatar: The Last Airbender" (the show, obviously) is probably better than Star Wars, certainly from the perspective of its plot, characters, and moral complexity. Star Wars has a childish, cartoonish morality; you can say that Star Wars is imitating line-by-line the tropes of the Monomyth, and it is, and I'm willing to say that's a mitigating factor, but not entirely an excuse.

    LoTR isn't entirely black and white, and some of my favorite parts upon reflection are the grays—Frodo's temptation and eventual failure to do right, the tension between the two hobbits and Gollum. Boromir was a fascinating character (though I remember thinking the movies did him better). But Aragorn (for example), in the book, is a boring-assed hero; he is incapable of doing wrong and is basically a paragon of Christian-style epic moral virtue. I think this kind of mythmaking is inferior to more nuanced and complex myths of other traditions. All in all, I think Tolkien's work is less nuanced and complex in its morality than Robert E. Howard's work written almost half a century prior.

  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Also: I think LoTR's greatest strength, by far, is the level of detail in its worldbuilding. Not necessarily in the breadth of its worldbuilding—we don't see many non-"Western"-style cultures, and this is something that I think Howard and some other fantasy writers actually top Tolkien at. However, no fantasy author I've read has matched the level of zoomed-in detail that Tolkien brings to the cultures that he does cover.

    I think this is ultimately why so many people have such an emotional attachment to LoTR and its world (and why countless fantasy authors since the 50's have gotten away with basically plagiarizing this world); it succeeds more than any other work of fiction at creating an alternate reality. This function is something Tolkien himself was completely aware of, too—he's written about how humans have the unique ability to act as "subcreators," in relation to our Creator; we can create our own worlds and may even convince other people that they're real. This is actually the main point of fairy-stories, according to Tolkien, and I'm tempted to agree.

    "Worldbuilding"—getting to experience an entirely fictional world as if it is real—is also the main reason I love The Legend of Zelda (specifically OoT), and Cameron's "Avatar" movie. They both build their worlds in ways unique to their mediums but, I think, succeed to the same extent that Tolkien does with LoTR.

    However, just as with LoTR, you can criticize the hell out of both Avatar's and Zelda's plots, their predictability, their simplistic moral views, etc, and I think it's worth doing this. I think it's important to criticize hugely popular and influential works of fiction, and I think it's important to criticize stuff that you yourself love.

  • valiancevaliance Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    Also: I think LoTR's greatest strength, by far, is the level of detail in its worldbuilding. Not necessarily in the breadth of its worldbuilding—we don't see many non-"Western"-style cultures, and this is something that I think Howard and some other fantasy writers actually top Tolkien at. However, no fantasy author I've read has matched the level of zoomed-in detail that Tolkien brings to the cultures that he does cover.

    I think this is ultimately why so many people have such an emotional attachment to LoTR and its world (and why countless fantasy authors since the 50's have gotten away with basically plagiarizing this world); it succeeds more than any other work of fiction at creating an alternate reality. This function is something Tolkien himself was completely aware of, too—he's written about how humans have the unique ability to act as "subcreators," in relation to our Creator; we can create our own worlds and may even convince other people that they're real. This is actually the main point of fairy-stories, according to Tolkien, and I'm tempted to agree.


    "Worldbuilding"—getting to experience an entirely fictional world as if it is real—is also the main reason I love The Legend of Zelda (specifically OoT), and Cameron's "Avatar" movie. They both build their worlds in ways unique to their mediums but, I think, succeed to the same extent that Tolkien does with LoTR.

    However, just as with LoTR, you can criticize the hell out of both Avatar's and Zelda's plots, their predictability, their simplistic moral views, etc, and I think it's worth doing this. I think it's important to criticize hugely popular and influential works of fiction, and I think it's important to criticize stuff that you yourself love.

    Well said. Tolkien's world creation skills are the best bar none.

  • Dunadan019Dunadan019 Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Avicus wrote: »
    I'm not sure about bloodlines giving you resistance to the corruption of the Ring. In fact, I'm certain they don't. The Ring itself is called Isildur's Bane because Isildur, blood of Numenor and all, was taken by it via his desire for power. There was constant doubt that Aragorn would be able to resist it (regardless of the evidence the people within the story certainly believe that one's bloodline matters for this kind of thing).

    In fact, Boromir falls almost immediately to the Ring while Faramir resists it and even manages to send it away, despite their being brothers and having exactly the same bloodline.

    I always thought that the men of Numenor were more susceptible to the power of the ring. Weren't the Nazgul 9 human kings with the blood of Numenor? And Isildur was lured by it. Throughout the story Aragorn was afraid he would take the ring because the same blood flowed through his veins. By strength of will and conviction to the cause he overcame it. A similar story with Faramir.

    Movie is wrong here. Faramir is never susceptible to the ring. Indeed he says something like he would not touch the thing if he found it on the roadside.

    I don't think it has anything to do with Bloodline. It has to do with the hearts of the men themselves.

    Faramir is susceptible to the ring once worn, everybody is.

    Faramir's denial is no different from gandalf refusing to use it. it stems from knowledge of knowing what it is what it could do and what it would do to him if used. the problem is that the lure of its ability was too tempting for some people which is not just due to the ring's power but also due to arrogance and honor/morals of the person in question. people who arrogantly think that they can control the power and do more good than bad are invariably lured to it. Gandalf's wisdom saves him, Faramir's honor saves him, Galadriel's experience saves her.

  • Cameron_TalleyCameron_Talley Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    However, just as with LoTR, you can criticize the hell out of both Avatar's and Zelda's plots, their predictability, their simplistic moral views, etc, and I think it's worth doing this. I think it's important to criticize hugely popular and influential works of fiction, and I think it's important to criticize stuff that you yourself love.

    Excellent point. Let's remember that "criticism" means more than "talking about something in a negative light" or taking a negative view on something. Criticism is about interpretation and meaning. It is about our understanding of the works themselves.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literary_Criticism

    3DS code: 0404-6826-4588 PM if you add.
  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    3. Morality. Now, I'm sympathetic to the argument that LoTR is written in the style of a fairy tale, or an epic, or both (which is more true as he starts writing it as a fairy tale and finishes as an epic), and therefore it's okay that there are one-dimensional monsters and pure evil gods that tempt you away from virtue because that's just the style. I'm sympathetic to this argument, but it's not exactly a valid argument. Because actually, there are many myths—including ones from the Western culture that Tolkien is internalizing here, namely the Iliad—that do not do this, that actually present morality in realistic and humanist terms.

    And I think it's important to do this. I think, all things being equal, a work of fiction that presents morality in complex grays is "better" than one that does not. Certainly there are exceptions, but I'd argue there are fewer than you think. I think "Avatar: The Last Airbender" (the show, obviously) is probably better than Star Wars, certainly from the perspective of its plot, characters, and moral complexity. Star Wars has a childish, cartoonish morality; you can say that Star Wars is imitating line-by-line the tropes of the Monomyth, and it is, and I'm willing to say that's a mitigating factor, but not entirely an excuse.

    LoTR isn't entirely black and white, and some of my favorite parts upon reflection are the grays—Frodo's temptation and eventual failure to do right, the tension between the two hobbits and Gollum. Boromir was a fascinating character (though I remember thinking the movies did him better). But Aragorn (for example), in the book, is a boring-assed hero; he is incapable of doing wrong and is basically a paragon of Christian-style epic moral virtue. I think this kind of mythmaking is inferior to more nuanced and complex myths of other traditions. All in all, I think Tolkien's work is less nuanced and complex in its morality than Robert E. Howard's work written almost half a century prior.

    This I think is simply something that while I understand, I do not agree with. I don't really buy into moral relativism. Or the idea that characters have to be gray. They can be as black and white as they want, as long as they are interesting.

    I find most attempts at moral ambiguity ultimately fail because I can tell easily enough who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.

    So really I have no problem at all with how LotR handles it.

    While racing light mechs, your Urbanmech comes in second place, but only because it ran out of ammo.
  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    This I think is simply something that while I understand, I do not agree with. I don't really buy into moral relativism. Or the idea that characters have to be gray. They can be as black and white as they want, as long as they are interesting.

    I find most attempts at moral ambiguity ultimately fail because I can tell easily enough who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.

    So really I have no problem at all with how LotR handles it.
    I'm not a moral relativist. Well, I am in the sense that I acknowledge the objective fact that culture A has different morals than culture B. However, I think that certain cultures are "better" than others, based on a variety of what I consider non-arbitrary criteria.

    I also think there are, for lack of a better word, "evil" people—psychopaths, megalomaniacs, people who basically act like animals in a dominance heirarchy.

    So, I'm not bothered by the fact that Tolkien doesn't treat the Orcs' culture as morally equal to the men of the West. I'm bothered by the fact that he creates an entire race of beings that are completely, 100% evil. Even a psychopath isn't 100% evil, they're just "broken," and I think it's fascinating to explore how a psychopath's mind works (see Dexter). Megalomaniacal dictators have their reasons and motivations; their subjects often believe they are acting morally.

    Tolkien almost explores this angle with Sauron in the Silmarillion, but it's pretty thin. In LoTR, Sauron is simply "the Dark Enemy." What is Sauron's motivation? What does Sauron want? What does Sauron think he is doing? Does he think he's improving the world? Tolkien never says, except that Sauron is a servant of Morgoth whose motivation was, if I remember, basically to fuck up the Ainur's symphony and get power for himself.

    I just think this is childish. I think it's important to try to understand people who you think are "evil." Osama bin Laden is an evil motherfucker and I hope he gets blown up by a Prompt Global Strike along with everyone around him, but I don't think Osama bin Laden is demonic whose sole motivation is powerlust over creation. Osama bin Laden believes he is a Good Guy, and (gasp) some of his viewpoints and criticism of "our side" are germane and relevant.

  • streeverstreever Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Qingu wrote: »
    3. Morality. Now, I'm sympathetic to the argument that LoTR is written in the style of a fairy tale, or an epic, or both (which is more true as he starts writing it as a fairy tale and finishes as an epic), and therefore it's okay that there are one-dimensional monsters and pure evil gods that tempt you away from virtue because that's just the style. I'm sympathetic to this argument, but it's not exactly a valid argument. Because actually, there are many myths—including ones from the Western culture that Tolkien is internalizing here, namely the Iliad—that do not do this, that actually present morality in realistic and humanist terms.

    And I think it's important to do this. I think, all things being equal, a work of fiction that presents morality in complex grays is "better" than one that does not. Certainly there are exceptions, but I'd argue there are fewer than you think. I think "Avatar: The Last Airbender" (the show, obviously) is probably better than Star Wars, certainly from the perspective of its plot, characters, and moral complexity. Star Wars has a childish, cartoonish morality; you can say that Star Wars is imitating line-by-line the tropes of the Monomyth, and it is, and I'm willing to say that's a mitigating factor, but not entirely an excuse.

    LoTR isn't entirely black and white, and some of my favorite parts upon reflection are the grays—Frodo's temptation and eventual failure to do right, the tension between the two hobbits and Gollum. Boromir was a fascinating character (though I remember thinking the movies did him better). But Aragorn (for example), in the book, is a boring-assed hero; he is incapable of doing wrong and is basically a paragon of Christian-style epic moral virtue. I think this kind of mythmaking is inferior to more nuanced and complex myths of other traditions. All in all, I think Tolkien's work is less nuanced and complex in its morality than Robert E. Howard's work written almost half a century prior.

    This I think is simply something that while I understand, I do not agree with. I don't really buy into moral relativism. Or the idea that characters have to be gray. They can be as black and white as they want, as long as they are interesting.

    I find most attempts at moral ambiguity ultimately fail because I can tell easily enough who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.

    So really I have no problem at all with how LotR handles it.

    This is my problem with your literary criticism. Although you deny it, your arguments are based around a notion that one view point is objectively better, and support it by referring to historical precedent. Just because Howard wrote a work with more nuanced morality 50 years before, doesn't mean that Tolkien has in any way failed or written an objectively bad book. Is it one you enjoy less? Yes.

    However, you fail to account for the reality that some people see morality in very different terms from you. Some people honestly and sincerely believe that morality is black and white. To them, Tolkien is clearly the superior writer if indeed he presents a black and white morality.

    Again, while it's something you may not like, it's not an objective measure of quality, but you continually imply that it is when you make references to how someone else had done it a whole half century before.

    The clear implication (perhaps unintentional on your part) is that Tolkien failed to learn from a good example and that Howard is therefore an objectively better writer. You've also brought up the Illiad and classical greek works. Regardless, the authors personal views on morality do not make a piece of work objectively better or worse.

  • streeverstreever Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    This I think is simply something that while I understand, I do not agree with. I don't really buy into moral relativism. Or the idea that characters have to be gray. They can be as black and white as they want, as long as they are interesting.

    I find most attempts at moral ambiguity ultimately fail because I can tell easily enough who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.

    So really I have no problem at all with how LotR handles it.
    I'm not a moral relativist. Well, I am in the sense that I acknowledge the objective fact that culture A has different morals than culture B. However, I think that certain cultures are "better" than others, based on a variety of what I consider non-arbitrary criteria.

    I also think there are, for lack of a better word, "evil" people—psychopaths, megalomaniacs, people who basically act like animals in a dominance heirarchy.

    So, I'm not bothered by the fact that Tolkien doesn't treat the Orcs' culture as morally equal to the men of the West. I'm bothered by the fact that he creates an entire race of beings that are completely, 100% evil. Even a psychopath isn't 100% evil, they're just "broken," and I think it's fascinating to explore how a psychopath's mind works (see Dexter). Megalomaniacal dictators have their reasons and motivations; their subjects often believe they are acting morally.

    Tolkien almost explores this angle with Sauron in the Silmarillion, but it's pretty thin. In LoTR, Sauron is simply "the Dark Enemy." What is Sauron's motivation? What does Sauron want? What does Sauron think he is doing? Does he think he's improving the world? Tolkien never says, except that Sauron is a servant of Morgoth whose motivation was, if I remember, basically to fuck up the Ainur's symphony and get power for himself.

    I just think this is childish. I think it's important to try to understand people who you think are "evil." Osama bin Laden is an evil motherfucker and I hope he gets blown up by a Prompt Global Strike along with everyone around him, but I don't think Osama bin Laden is demonic whose sole motivation is powerlust over creation. Osama bin Laden believes he is a Good Guy, and (gasp) some of his viewpoints and criticism of "our side" are germane and relevant.

    Right: This is your world view, and I personally largely agree with it. That doesn't mean that someone who doesn't agree--or who chooses to not see it this way--is wrong in any objective, measurable way. You can't just dismiss them as childish.

    Basically this boils down to you thinking that your personal perception is the superior one, and therefore work that agrees with your viewpoint is superior. That is your view, and you are entitled to it, but it seems awfully black & white to me for someone who claims to adhere to a shades of grey outlook.

  • CheezyCheezy Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Aragorn has to be a paragon of virtue in the same way that Sauron has to be the epitome of villainy. They are the goal posts for every other character. Every character is moving within that spectrum and it works better for a mythical world than for one that didn't have them clearly demarcated. If you have an ultimate battle of good versus evil, you need to know what that entails. That only provides the frame of the story, rather than the bulk of it. In the Iliad, basically everyone is a dick, which is not what I consider a "gray" morality. That just means your world is filled with dicks on two sides rather than one.

    I don't know anyone who actually considers Aragorn to be their favorite character or any of his actions memorable. The favorite parts of everyone that I know are where there is moral conflict. And the only reason that those really have tension is because people can point to the logical conclusion of both sides worldviews. Just because there is a clearly marked world ethic doesn't mean that an individual character's personal morality doesn't enter into the picture, which is where all the fun stuff occurs.

    The same thing occurs in Arthurian literature. The interesting things occur after the ideal knight (e.g. Gawain) fails to complete an objective. Then along comes another knight, who is in some way flawed, who uses his flaw to obtain the objective, thus overcoming the weakness (e.g. Lancelot). The journey itself is the objective and not the destination. Redemption can only occur if there is something to move away from, and the larger that gradient, the more satisfying the redemption is. It's the exact opposite of the Fall.

    The reason that a hobbit is chosen to be the Ringbearer is because they straddle the neutral line and the most impotent (while reasoning) creature in Middle Earth. It'd be like giving Forrest Gump the ring. Sure, he'd have it, but if your largest desire is a Dr. Pepper, how much evil could possibly blossom from that?

    The naivete of the hobbits necessarily prevents the ring's use because the ring's true power requires a desire for utility (through mastery and power). The problem is that any desire for utility ends up corrupted, which is why Gandalf refuses to take the ring from Frodo.

    But Hobbits have very little desires. The only reason Bilbo is able to turn invisible through the ring is because he desired the ability of a burglar. Frodo's only real desires are basically not wanting the ring and an adventure, both of which can only be fulfilled by the ring through destroying the ring itself in an adventure.

  • Cameron_TalleyCameron_Talley Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Aragorn isn't perfect, either. He doesn't start out saying "I'm gonna be the King!" He has issues regarding reforging the line of Kings and taking his place on the throne.

    3DS code: 0404-6826-4588 PM if you add.
  • gjaustingjaustin Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Cheezy wrote: »
    Aragorn has to be a paragon of virtue in the same way that Sauron has to be the epitome of villainy. They are the goal posts for every other character. Every character is moving within that spectrum and it works better for a mythical world than for one that didn't have them clearly demarcated. If you have an ultimate battle of good versus evil, you need to know what that entails. That only provides the frame of the story, rather than the bulk of it. In the Iliad, basically everyone is a dick, which is not what I consider a "gray" morality. That just means your world is filled with dicks on two sides rather than one.

    I don't know anyone who actually considers Aragorn to be their favorite character or any of his actions memorable. The favorite parts of everyone that I know are where there is moral conflict. And the only reason that those really have tension is because people can point to the logical conclusion of both sides worldviews. Just because there is a clearly marked world ethic doesn't mean that an individual character's personal morality doesn't enter into the picture, which is where all the fun stuff occurs.

    The same thing occurs in Arthurian literature. The interesting things occur after the ideal knight (e.g. Gawain) fails to complete an objective. Then along comes another knight, who is in some way flawed, who uses his flaw to obtain the objective, thus overcoming the weakness (e.g. Lancelot). The journey itself is the objective and not the destination. Redemption can only occur if there is something to move away from, and the larger that gradient, the more satisfying the redemption is. It's the exact opposite of the Fall.

    The reason that a hobbit is chosen to be the Ringbearer is because they straddle the neutral line and the most impotent (while reasoning) creature in Middle Earth. It'd be like giving Forrest Gump the ring. Sure, he'd have it, but if your largest desire is a Dr. Pepper, how much evil could possibly blossom from that?

    The naivete of the hobbits necessarily prevents the ring's use because the ring's true power requires a desire for utility (through mastery and power). The problem is that any desire for utility ends up corrupted, which is why Gandalf refuses to take the ring from Frodo.

    But Hobbits have very little desires. The only reason Bilbo is able to turn invisible through the ring is because he desired the ability of a burglar. Frodo's only real desires are basically not wanting the ring and an adventure, both of which can only be fulfilled by the ring through destroying the ring itself in an adventure.

    What are you claiming here?

    The ability to be invisible is certainly not related to Bilbo's desires. The only character not affected by the ring is Tom Bombadil, and arguments about that are a completly different topic.

    Your belief is not required
  • CheezyCheezy Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Aragorn isn't perfect, either. He doesn't start out saying "I'm gonna be the King!" He has issues regarding reforging the line of Kings and taking his place on the throne.

    The Four Cardinal Virtues

  • CheezyCheezy Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    gjaustin wrote: »
    What are you claiming here?

    The ability to be invisible is certainly not related to Bilbo's desires. The only character not affected by the ring is Tom Bombadil, and arguments about that are a completly different topic.

    Let's say you have a knife. It has the power to chop vegetables or cut throats. It's a tool. It's an extension of who and what you are. But the function of a knife is still primarily to deconstruct things, be they vegetables or throats. Get a good person angry enough and they'll see the power of a knife to kill things.

    The same thing applies with the Ring. The Ring has the power to do a fuckton of things, invisibility among them. For a ringbearer to use those powers, they first have to know they exist. If they don't know that they exist, they have to discover them through fumbling. Bilbo discovered the invisibility aspect because he wanted to disappear. Everyone afterward who knew of the Ring (namely Frodo and Sam) knew the Ring had the power of invisibility prior to wearing it.

  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Cheezy and Streever, I don't get what you guys are trying to say about objectivity.

    You're claiming that LoTR is objectively good, despite my subjective problems with it?

    Or are you claiming that no work is objectively good or bad, and that my criticism of LoTR is dumb because it implies as such?

    Whatever the case, neither position strikes me as particularly coherent.

  • gjaustingjaustin Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Cheezy wrote: »
    gjaustin wrote: »
    What are you claiming here?

    The ability to be invisible is certainly not related to Bilbo's desires. The only character not affected by the ring is Tom Bombadil, and arguments about that are a completly different topic.

    Let's say you have a knife. It has the power to chop vegetables or cut throats. It's a tool. It's an extension of who and what you are. But the function of a knife is still primarily to deconstruct things, be they vegetables or throats. Get a good person angry enough and they'll see the power of a knife to kill things.

    The same thing applies with the Ring. The Ring has the power to do a fuckton of things, invisibility among them. For a ringbearer to use those powers, they first have to know they exist. If they don't know that they exist, they have to discover them through fumbling. Bilbo discovered the invisibility aspect because he wanted to disappear. Everyone afterward who knew of the Ring (namely Frodo and Sam) knew the Ring had the power of invisibility prior to wearing it.

    Do you have any textual support for that? Because I think that's completely wrong.

    Your belief is not required
  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    To elaborate:

    Many people have said that Twilight is a shitty book. They've criticized it from the perspective of its shoddy plot and writing style. They've also criticized it because of the backwards/creepy morality inherent in the work.

    It seems like you're saying that criticizing Twilight is unwarranted—because legions of Twilight fans disagree with the critics and like the writing style and the morality.

    Is your point really just, "opinions lolz"?

  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Aragorn isn't perfect, either. He doesn't start out saying "I'm gonna be the King!" He has issues regarding reforging the line of Kings and taking his place on the throne.
    Ah, but everyone knows the best kings are the ones that don't want to be king.

  • streeverstreever Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    To elaborate:

    Many people have said that Twilight is a shitty book. They've criticized it from the perspective of its shoddy plot and writing style. They've also criticized it because of the backwards/creepy morality inherent in the work.

    It seems like you're saying that criticizing Twilight is unwarranted—because legions of Twilight fans disagree with the critics and like the writing style and the morality.

    Is your point really just, "opinions lolz"?

    No, and I thought of that when I wrote my comment. My point was (and is) that while you may not appreciate black and white morality, it is a millennium old philosophical viewpoint that is perfectly acceptable. It is not in and of itself a "poor", "bad", or "childish" viewpoint.

    Some people who hold it certainly are childish, just as some people who are moral relativists or shades of grey adherents may be childish.

    Your argument relegates anyone who doesn't agree with you on the vast superiority of shades of grey as childish in viewpoint. However, they may be able to appreciate another person's viewpoint.

    I'm personally unwilling to try to appreciate Twilights viewpoint because I've read an excerpt and thought the actual writing was trash. Sensationalist, inconsistent, and hackneyed. I don't think you can casually glance at a few paragraphs of Tolkien's and easily make the same deduction.


    --

    My point is that there are many more factors than the author's personal view on morality. You are the one trying to make a case to convince others. If you really think Tolkien is an objectively bad writer, why focus on your assumptions as to his personal morality? Why not find specific examples of hackneyed, cliche-ridden writing? Why not find plotholes besides "eagles"?

  • CheezyCheezy Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    gjaustin wrote: »
    Cheezy wrote: »
    gjaustin wrote: »
    What are you claiming here?

    The ability to be invisible is certainly not related to Bilbo's desires. The only character not affected by the ring is Tom Bombadil, and arguments about that are a completly different topic.

    Let's say you have a knife. It has the power to chop vegetables or cut throats. It's a tool. It's an extension of who and what you are. But the function of a knife is still primarily to deconstruct things, be they vegetables or throats. Get a good person angry enough and they'll see the power of a knife to kill things.

    The same thing applies with the Ring. The Ring has the power to do a fuckton of things, invisibility among them. For a ringbearer to use those powers, they first have to know they exist. If they don't know that they exist, they have to discover them through fumbling. Bilbo discovered the invisibility aspect because he wanted to disappear. Everyone afterward who knew of the Ring (namely Frodo and Sam) knew the Ring had the power of invisibility prior to wearing it.

    Do you have any textual support for that? Because I think that's completely wrong.

    I'm not going to go dig around for it. Sorry.

    Why exactly do you think it's wrong?

  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    streever wrote: »
    No, and I thought of that when I wrote my comment. My point was (and is) that while you may not appreciate black and white morality, it is a millennium old philosophical viewpoint that is perfectly acceptable. It is not in and of itself a "poor", "bad", or "childish" viewpoint.
    I disagree. Also, just because something is old and well-established doesn't mean it's valid. I'm sure you can think of some examples.
    Some people who hold it certainly are childish, just as some people who are moral relativists or shades of grey adherents may be childish.

    Your argument relegates anyone who doesn't agree with you on the vast superiority of shades of grey as childish in viewpoint. However, they may be able to appreciate another person's viewpoint.
    I can appreciate why some people believe in moral absolutes. I also think they're childish, and it's a naive and un-nuanced worldview that drags down literature that upholds it.
    I'm personally unwilling to try to appreciate Twilights viewpoint because I've read an excerpt and thought the actual writing was trash. Sensationalist, inconsistent, and hackneyed. I don't think you can casually glance at a few paragraphs of Tolkien's and easily make the same deduction.
    So what is your criteria for determining that (for example) LoTR is vastly superior to Twilight?

    Here's a few of mine, that I'm basically pulling out of my ass for the purposes of this discussion (apologies to any English majors who know of superior ways of talking about this stuff)

    • Creativity/innovation. Recycling pop culture vampires and neutering them < creating an entire fantasy world. Does the story bring something new to the table?

    • Writing style. This is hugely multifaceted, and there's a lot of different ways to succeed (or fail), and taste differences, but I imagine we probably agree on the basics.

    • "Realism." In quotes, because I don't mean that only stories that take place in the real world are good. Rather, I mean that a story needs to make some sort of internal sense. What happens in the story needs to flow logically and consistently. This includes not only the need for tight plotting (deus ex machinas are bad) but also the need to avoid ad hoc metaphysics.

    • Depth. This is where, I think, we are at loggerheads. By "depth," I mean moral and psychological complexity; this sort of shades into what I was talking about with "realism." I think literature that portrays complex characters with various motivations, that acknowledges the messiness of reality and the difficulty in choosing what's right, is better than literature that has the complexity of a Saturday morning cartoon. The first kind of literature challenges us, leaves deep impressions, and I think can actually enrich the human experience by recasting real-world conflicts in a new light. The second kind does little except confirm our own biases.

    I don't think LoTR "fails" at any of these things. I'd score it, respectively, 10/10, 6/10, 7.5/10, and 7/10. Those numbers do not reflect any great amount of consideration on my part.

  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Cheezy wrote: »
    gjaustin wrote: »
    Cheezy wrote: »
    gjaustin wrote: »
    What are you claiming here?

    The ability to be invisible is certainly not related to Bilbo's desires. The only character not affected by the ring is Tom Bombadil, and arguments about that are a completly different topic.

    Let's say you have a knife. It has the power to chop vegetables or cut throats. It's a tool. It's an extension of who and what you are. But the function of a knife is still primarily to deconstruct things, be they vegetables or throats. Get a good person angry enough and they'll see the power of a knife to kill things.

    The same thing applies with the Ring. The Ring has the power to do a fuckton of things, invisibility among them. For a ringbearer to use those powers, they first have to know they exist. If they don't know that they exist, they have to discover them through fumbling. Bilbo discovered the invisibility aspect because he wanted to disappear. Everyone afterward who knew of the Ring (namely Frodo and Sam) knew the Ring had the power of invisibility prior to wearing it.

    Do you have any textual support for that? Because I think that's completely wrong.

    I'm not going to go dig around for it. Sorry.

    Why exactly do you think it's wrong?

    Because it has no textual support? I've never heard of this idea ... like ever.

  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    I've actually heard of that invisibility explanation before. (Bilbo became invisible because he wanted to hide ... then this function became formalized in his mind when he put on the ring thereafter). Though I can't remember if it's in the text.

    It seems like a reasonable explanation.

    Though I somewhat doubt that Tolkien didn't realize it was the One Ring when he wrote the Hobbit.

  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    Also: I think LoTR's greatest strength, by far, is the level of detail in its worldbuilding. Not necessarily in the breadth of its worldbuilding—we don't see many non-"Western"-style cultures, and this is something that I think Howard and some other fantasy writers actually top Tolkien at. However, no fantasy author I've read has matched the level of zoomed-in detail that Tolkien brings to the cultures that he does cover.

    I think this is ultimately why so many people have such an emotional attachment to LoTR and its world (and why countless fantasy authors since the 50's have gotten away with basically plagiarizing this world); it succeeds more than any other work of fiction at creating an alternate reality. This function is something Tolkien himself was completely aware of, too—he's written about how humans have the unique ability to act as "subcreators," in relation to our Creator; we can create our own worlds and may even convince other people that they're real. This is actually the main point of fairy-stories, according to Tolkien, and I'm tempted to agree.

    Eh. He's definitely very good at it, but I don't think I'd call him the best. The world feels very empty and very uniform and there's little sense of what these places are actually like on a day to day basis or what the culture is or anything.

    What Tolkien was good at was the mythic history of his world, which is of course what he was after.

    For whatever other faults you may find in their work, when it comes to worldbuilding I'd say Jordan or Bakker or even GRRM is better.

  • Cameron_TalleyCameron_Talley Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Cheezy wrote: »
    gjaustin wrote: »
    Cheezy wrote: »
    gjaustin wrote: »
    What are you claiming here?

    The ability to be invisible is certainly not related to Bilbo's desires. The only character not affected by the ring is Tom Bombadil, and arguments about that are a completly different topic.

    Let's say you have a knife. It has the power to chop vegetables or cut throats. It's a tool. It's an extension of who and what you are. But the function of a knife is still primarily to deconstruct things, be they vegetables or throats. Get a good person angry enough and they'll see the power of a knife to kill things.

    The same thing applies with the Ring. The Ring has the power to do a fuckton of things, invisibility among them. For a ringbearer to use those powers, they first have to know they exist. If they don't know that they exist, they have to discover them through fumbling. Bilbo discovered the invisibility aspect because he wanted to disappear. Everyone afterward who knew of the Ring (namely Frodo and Sam) knew the Ring had the power of invisibility prior to wearing it.

    Do you have any textual support for that? Because I think that's completely wrong.

    I'm not going to go dig around for it. Sorry.

    Why exactly do you think it's wrong?

    Frodo doesn't know about the invisibility the first time it slips on his finger in Bree. He still turns invisible.

    3DS code: 0404-6826-4588 PM if you add.
  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    I do not know this Bakker of which you speak, nor have I read Wheel of Time or anything in ASoIaF beyond the first book.

    I will say that your worldbuilding doesn't count if you don't actually finish your fucking book series.

  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Frodo doesn't know about the invisibility the first time it slips on his finger in Bree. He still turns invisible.
    Didn't he know it turned Bilbo invisible? Or was that just in the movie?

    Also, didn't he want to be invisible in Bree? (or was that, too, just in the movie)

  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    I've actually heard of that invisibility explanation before. (Bilbo became invisible because he wanted to hide ... then this function became formalized in his mind when he put on the ring thereafter). Though I can't remember if it's in the text.

    It seems like a reasonable explanation.

    Though I somewhat doubt that Tolkien didn't realize it was the One Ring when he wrote the Hobbit.

    He didn't.

    The Hobbit was written having nothing to do with Tolkien's then not complete idea of "Middle-Earth". It was only later when he was writing LOTR that he changed a few things in The Hobbit to hook it into the story of Middle-Earth. The most extensive changes being around the character of Gollum and the ring and Bilbo.

    Also, the Ring turned Gollum invisible for ages before Bilbo came along.

    I do not know this Bakker of which you speak, nor have I read Wheel of Time or anything in ASoIaF beyond the first book.

    I will say that your worldbuilding doesn't count if you don't actually finish your fucking book series.

    Why not?

    Rare Blood Disease == Worldbuilding doesn't count now?

  • Cameron_TalleyCameron_Talley Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    I've actually heard of that invisibility explanation before. (Bilbo became invisible because he wanted to hide ... then this function became formalized in his mind when he put on the ring thereafter). Though I can't remember if it's in the text.

    It seems like a reasonable explanation.

    Though I somewhat doubt that Tolkien didn't realize it was the One Ring when he wrote the Hobbit.

    He didn't.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_hobbit#Revisions

    3DS code: 0404-6826-4588 PM if you add.
  • Cameron_TalleyCameron_Talley Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    Frodo doesn't know about the invisibility the first time it slips on his finger in Bree. He still turns invisible.
    Didn't he know it turned Bilbo invisible? Or was that just in the movie?

    Also, didn't he want to be invisible in Bree? (or was that, too, just in the movie)


    Dammit, you're right on the first part.

    Wrong on the second, I think. It's been awhile since I've read them, though.

    3DS code: 0404-6826-4588 PM if you add.
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Qingu wrote: »
    But resisting evil temptation is a skill in this universe. The Numenoreans, iirc, actually resisted Sauron's power that he would easily use to corrupt and tempt a "lesser man." Sauron succeeds in leading them to sin by fostering their own greed and powerlust.

    This is part of another theme being played with in the story, the nature of evil. Tolkien is exploring whether Evil is an internal or external force. If it's something that can come from outside of yourself.

    From the viewpoint of Evil as something external, something that comes from outside and takes you over, it makes sense that having magic blood would give you a resistance to the influence of evil magic.

    Except it's not like this at all. All of LOTRs and the words around it push the idea that evil is INTERNAL.

    The Ring doesn't make you evil, it brings out the evil within you. The people who resist it better are simply those who are better able to resist the evil within them.

    Not true. Quoting from Tom Shippey's phenomenal book, JRR Tolkien: Author of the Century:
    The Ring's ambiguity is present almost the first time we see it, in 'The Shadow of the Past', when Gandalf tells Frodo, 'Give me the ring for a moment'. Frodo unfastens it from it's chain and, 'handed it slowly to the wizard. It felt suddenly very heavy, as if either it or Frodo himself was in some way reluctant for Gandalf to touch it.'

    Either it or Frodo. It may not seem very important to know which of these alternative explanations is true, but the difference is the difference betweeen the world-views I have labelled above as 'Boethian' and 'Manichaean'. If Boethius is right, then evil is internal, caused by human sin and weakness and alienation from God; in this case the Ring feels heavy because Frodo (already in the very first stages of addiction. we may say) is unconsciously reluctant to part with it. If there is some truth in the Manichaean view, though, then evil is a force from outside which has in some way been able to make the non-sentient Ring itself evil; so it is indeed the Ring, obeying the will of its master, which does not want to be identified. Both views are furthermore perfectly convincing.

    That doesn't change what I'm talking about.

    The Ring has powers of some sort, certainly, but it's evil is always, always in corrupting people. To put it crasly, it brings out the worst in people. The ring works evil by making people evil.

    And there's a whole chain of this idea of internal evil through LOTR and the Simarillion right back to the start. It's pretty consistent in being about corruption.

  • Dunadan019Dunadan019 Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    isildur's bane (aka the ring), is known as such because the ring slipped off isildur's finger while he was swimming in the anduin after being ambushed by orcs. He was invisible to the archers until the ring fell off and then he was shot.

    the ring has inherent invisibility giving properties for mortals.

  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    shryke wrote: »
    Why not?

    Rare Blood Disease == Worldbuilding doesn't count now?
    Damn right it doesn't.

    Okay I'm being more than a little sarcastic.

    I will say, based on A Game of Thrones at least, that GRRM's worldbuilding isn't as deep as Tolkien's. It's broader—the plains barbarians are cool and there's nothing like them in LoTR—and it arguably has as "complete" of a history in broad strokes. But the details of the history aren't filled out. Part of this is of course because Tolkien was obsessed with the languages, and as it turns out language is hugely important in terms of fleshing out cultural histories.

    I do think GRRM is better than Tolkien in many ways, based on what I've read so far.

  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    This I think is simply something that while I understand, I do not agree with. I don't really buy into moral relativism. Or the idea that characters have to be gray. They can be as black and white as they want, as long as they are interesting.

    I find most attempts at moral ambiguity ultimately fail because I can tell easily enough who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.

    So really I have no problem at all with how LotR handles it.
    I'm not a moral relativist. Well, I am in the sense that I acknowledge the objective fact that culture A has different morals than culture B. However, I think that certain cultures are "better" than others, based on a variety of what I consider non-arbitrary criteria.

    I also think there are, for lack of a better word, "evil" people—psychopaths, megalomaniacs, people who basically act like animals in a dominance heirarchy.

    So, I'm not bothered by the fact that Tolkien doesn't treat the Orcs' culture as morally equal to the men of the West. I'm bothered by the fact that he creates an entire race of beings that are completely, 100% evil. Even a psychopath isn't 100% evil, they're just "broken," and I think it's fascinating to explore how a psychopath's mind works (see Dexter). Megalomaniacal dictators have their reasons and motivations; their subjects often believe they are acting morally.

    Tolkien almost explores this angle with Sauron in the Silmarillion, but it's pretty thin. In LoTR, Sauron is simply "the Dark Enemy." What is Sauron's motivation? What does Sauron want? What does Sauron think he is doing? Does he think he's improving the world? Tolkien never says, except that Sauron is a servant of Morgoth whose motivation was, if I remember, basically to fuck up the Ainur's symphony and get power for himself.

    I just think this is childish. I think it's important to try to understand people who you think are "evil." Osama bin Laden is an evil motherfucker and I hope he gets blown up by a Prompt Global Strike along with everyone around him, but I don't think Osama bin Laden is demonic whose sole motivation is powerlust over creation. Osama bin Laden believes he is a Good Guy, and (gasp) some of his viewpoints and criticism of "our side" are germane and relevant.

    I think the following, again from Author of the Century, might be enlightening. In talking about the scene were Frodo is captured at the pass and the orcs that find him express contempt that whoever killed Shelob just left Frodo there:

    "Orcs here, and on other occasions, have a clear idea of what is admirable and what is contemtible behaviour, which is exactly the same as ours. They cannot revoke what Lewis calls 'the Moral Law' and create a counter-molarity based on evil, any more than they can revoke biology and live on poisons. They are moral beings, who talk freely what we do. The puzzle is that this has no effect at all on their actual behaviour, and they seem (as in the conversation quoted) to have no self-awareness or capacity for self-criticism. But these are human qualities too. The orcs, though low down on the scale of evil, the mere 'infantry of the old war', quite clearly and deliberately dramatize what I have called the Boethian view: evil is just an absence, the shadow of the good."

    While racing light mechs, your Urbanmech comes in second place, but only because it ran out of ammo.
  • gjaustingjaustin Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Cheezy wrote: »
    gjaustin wrote: »
    Cheezy wrote: »
    gjaustin wrote: »
    What are you claiming here?

    The ability to be invisible is certainly not related to Bilbo's desires. The only character not affected by the ring is Tom Bombadil, and arguments about that are a completly different topic.

    Let's say you have a knife. It has the power to chop vegetables or cut throats. It's a tool. It's an extension of who and what you are. But the function of a knife is still primarily to deconstruct things, be they vegetables or throats. Get a good person angry enough and they'll see the power of a knife to kill things.

    The same thing applies with the Ring. The Ring has the power to do a fuckton of things, invisibility among them. For a ringbearer to use those powers, they first have to know they exist. If they don't know that they exist, they have to discover them through fumbling. Bilbo discovered the invisibility aspect because he wanted to disappear. Everyone afterward who knew of the Ring (namely Frodo and Sam) knew the Ring had the power of invisibility prior to wearing it.

    Do you have any textual support for that? Because I think that's completely wrong.

    I'm not going to go dig around for it. Sorry.

    Why exactly do you think it's wrong?

    Because even your knife analogy is flawed. Consider an ignorant person who doesn't know that a knife can cut. If that persons stab someone else in the heart, that knife will kill the second person regardless of intent or desire.

    Similarly with the Ring, it is inherently able to turn its user invisible. Bilbo didn't know it would turn him invisible, yet it did anyway.


    Instead the limiting factor on use of the Ring is that the Ring, in a sense, has a will of its own. In the book it is frequently described as having desires itself. It wants to return to Sauron (or perhaps corrupt a Maiar like Gandalf or Saruman - but that's another discussion). The more powerful the bearer, the easier that task is. It deliberately abandoned Gollumn to go to Bilbo.

    The Hobbits were the best choice for four reasons.

    1) Their relative weakness kept the Ring from considering them potential owners.
    2) Their weakness prevented Sauron and his minions from considering them threats.
    3) Their small size and natural ability at hiding was helpful for sneaking into Mordor.
    4) Their simple life style gave them some resistance to the delusions of grandeur that cause people to want to claim ownership of the Ring.


    And even then, at the end, they still failed.

    Your belief is not required
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