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Lord of the Rings: Criticism, Analysis, etc

HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
edited July 2010 in Debate and/or Discourse
I feel like this an interesting enough topic to warrant it's own thread, so here goes.

Qingu wrote: »
This brings up an interesting question: is it a deus ex machina if, after the fact, you make up a bunch of ad hoc shit to justify the arc of the deus ex machina? At which point does a deus ex machina stop being a deus ex machina in the process of explaining/justifying it?

Like okay there are eagles that for no apparent reason fail to remotely help the most important part of the good guys' quest but then also for no reason show up at the end, after the quest is finished, so the heroes don't have to die and result in a sad ending. That is a deus ex machina. But you can say "oh but the eagles were busy helping the dwarves in the north, and also the valar didn't really want the eagles to help in the first place because they wanted to stay neutral, or test middle earth, or the ways of valar and their magic eagles are mysterious because the song of Eru is transcendent above what humans can comprehend," and it becomes a non-deus ex machina? That seems a little cheap to me.

I appreciate that Tolkien, as an author, is responsible about going back and justifying the shit he makes up and doesn't make sense as he writes his plot by the seat of his pants (often with 200 paragraphs of expository dialogue). THat's a better approach than, for example, Battlestar Galactica.

The key point, I think, is that this is done very deliberately. The world of Middle Earth is ordered. We would generally describe this as karma, but is an idea I think shared by most religions, that events are bound in some purpose.

Bilbo sparing Golem is rewarded when he ends up saving Frodo. Frodo and Sam's heroism is rewarded when they are saved by the Eagles.

The interplay of Chance and Fate, and the nature of these two things, is an important theme being explored in the story.

Sure, you may not agree with the conclusion it seems to come to (and I doubt you would) but that is not the same as sloppy writing.
Qingu wrote: »
Also, the books have a luddite philosophy and are basically racist in their outlook. The Numenoreans are inherently, racially superior to other races of men. Certain bloodlines have better powers, or are more susceptible to the ring's corruption. The Southrons are all dark-skinned savages. The Orcs are dark-skinned monsters twisted out of the fair-skinned elves and are completely bereft of any sort of humanity; you might as well genocide them. The books' portrayal of warfare reminds me of the Bible, which is a terrible thing. The Iliad and the Hindu epics portray war as morally gray, as heroes existing on both sides; the Bible simply counts how many evildoers the heroes kill and advocates genocide. Tolkien is clearly imitating a European mode of storytelling influenced by the Bible, but it's still shitty.

While the racial lay-out of LotRs has... unfortunate implications, I think it's far too simplistic to simply dismiss it as "racism".

For one thing, your claim that "The Numenoreans are inherently, racially superior to other races of men." is really not that clear in the bigger picture. When one really looks at the genealogy of the world, the central idea is that everyone comes from the same place but is changed by their experiences, which I think debunks any claims of "inherent" traits. The men of the West are "superior" as a result of their interactions with the Elves, and those who held faith during the Second age and became Numenoreans are superior still by the gifts of the Valar for that loyalty and the fact that they essentially live closer to Heaven.

The same is true of the Elves. The Elves who first came to Valinor (aka Heaven) are the greatest, those who came second are a little lesser (and those who left in the Exile lost something because of that) and those who came third, and even then not all the way, are lesser still, and finally those who did not go are least.

So the idea is that Numenoreans, or the Noldor, are part-divine. More like Hercules or other demihumans than normal mortals. Now, while there are again unfortunate connections to actual racist thought IRL, I think that you need to let go of that and evaluate the fantasy setting on it's own terms (unless it's supposed to be an allegory but LotR is decidedly not).

While racing light mechs, your Urbanmech comes in second place, but only because it ran out of ammo.
HamHamJ on
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  • CheezyCheezy Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    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!

    And people who dedicate any amount of brainpower to accusations of racism against a dead author's fictional work should feel pretty courageous for being academic graverobbers. I mean, there's actual, tangible racism going on all around the world, but instead it is decided that a dead man must be judged for imagined grievances. I mean, the Diaspora of New Orleans? No complaints. Haiti having no infrastructure? A-okay. A man forty years dead describing things that go bump in the night as dark? Scandalous.

    "Nay, allow the claim of the dead; stab not the fallen; what prowess is it to slay the slain anew?"

    Cheezy on
  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Also feel free to bring up any other stuff about analyzing LotR and such. I was just leading with that because it's what got me to make the thread.

    Lord of the Rings, and other stuff like the Silmarillion, all not only very deep from a literary criticism perspective, but they are a project that I think is almost unique in history. Certainly other world building exercises of similar scale (Star Wars, Star Trek, etc) have been done by collaborations, not individuals.

    HamHamJ on
    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
    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.
    And people who dedicate any amount of brainpower to accusations of racism against a dead author's fictional work should feel pretty courageous for being academic graverobbers. I mean, there's actual, tangible racism going on all around the world, but instead it is decided that a dead man must be judged for imagined grievances. I mean, the Diaspora of New Orleans? No complaints. Haiti having no infrastructure? A-okay. A man forty years dead describing things that go bump in the night as dark? Scandalous.
    This makes no damn sense.

    We aren't allowed to discuss racial prejudice in slightly dated works of fiction because there is currently racial prejudice in the world?

    There are so many levels on which this is silly.

    The fact that LoTR is so popular and pervasive is all the more reason to examine it critically, both in terms of its literary merits and in its underlying ideology (and prejudices).

    Your post has the bizarre aura of a religious apologist defending his scripture.

    Qingu on
  • streeverstreever Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    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.
    And people who dedicate any amount of brainpower to accusations of racism against a dead author's fictional work should feel pretty courageous for being academic graverobbers. I mean, there's actual, tangible racism going on all around the world, but instead it is decided that a dead man must be judged for imagined grievances. I mean, the Diaspora of New Orleans? No complaints. Haiti having no infrastructure? A-okay. A man forty years dead describing things that go bump in the night as dark? Scandalous.
    This makes no damn sense.

    We aren't allowed to discuss racial prejudice in slightly dated works of fiction because there is currently racial prejudice in the world?

    There are so many levels on which this is silly.

    The fact that LoTR is so popular and pervasive is all the more reason to examine it critically, both in terms of its literary merits and in its underlying ideology (and prejudices).

    Your post has the bizarre aura of a religious apologist defending his scripture.

    I don't think the eagles had the numbers or strength to transport the fellowship to the Crack of Doom. The flying Nazgul, bow-toting orcs, etc, would have butchered them.

    After the heroes have killed/distracted/diverted most of the orcs? Well, then why wouldn't the eagles (per gandalf's request) fly in and save the shining stars?

    I think your arguments are flawed & arise out of your own bias and lack of perspective. How can you really compare Orcs--deliberate twisted creations in a fantasy world--with real-world races and conclude that Tolkien was racist and OK with genocide?

    Viewed through a modern PC lens I can see your point--kind of--but the inability to apply context or perspective to the work certainly undermines your criticism.

    streever on
  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    The key point, I think, is that this is done very deliberately. The world of Middle Earth is ordered. We would generally describe this as karma, but is an idea I think shared by most religions, that events are bound in some purpose.
    I agree that LoTR's world has the metaphysics of an ordered religious mythology (and not in the insufferable way that, for example, Lewis' shit does). Some of my Christian internet friends once pointed out that the arc of the story is particularly Christian—because Frodo actually fails, he doesn't succeed in conquering evil on his own strength, but rather ends up relying on external happenstance and things beyond his control (much like how a sinner depends on Christ to save him).

    I'm not criticizing the books because they're Christiany—I liked that Frodo fails, on several levels, and I think Tolkien's mythology is, while failing to escape the metaphysics of his own personal religion (he can't quite write an alternate reality without a monotheistic god), is extremely inventive, nuanced, and beautiful.

    However, I disagree that the eagles rescuing Frodo was deliberate. I disagree that the eagles rescuing Gandalf was deliberate, or that Gandalf coming back from the dead was deliberate. Obvoiusly it's "deliberate" in the sense that he consciously wrote it, but I don't think it was well-planned when he was writing it. It strikes me as the result of him having written himself into a corner; he doesn't want these characters to die, but he writes them into situations they can't realistically escape from ("realistically" even in terms of the fantasy world's mechanics), so he resorts to supernatural salvation for them.

    Again, I'm fine with supernatural shit in LoTR, I'm fine with it having an ordered, mythic worldview, but I disagree that this was the prime motivation for writing in the eagle rescues of Gandalf coming back to life. I think it is an ad hoc explanation concocted after Tolkien realized he wrote himself into a corner.

    This is nitpicky, I know, but it's something I'm personally very interested in (and critical of in my own stuff) as an aspiring author.
    While the racial lay-out of LotRs has... unfortunate implications, I think it's far too simplistic to simply dismiss it as "racism".
    Yeah, I'll retract my statement; I don't like throwing the r-word around. I do think the racial elements of the story are problematic, but they are mitigated by a variety of factors that stop them from being outright "racist." (The movies, however, fare much better in this regard, I think.)
    For one thing, your claim that "The Numenoreans are inherently, racially superior to other races of men." is really not that clear in the bigger picture. When one really looks at the genealogy of the world, the central idea is that everyone comes from the same place but is changed by their experiences, which I think debunks any claims of "inherent" traits. The men of the West are "superior" as a result of their interactions with the Elves, and those who held faith during the Second age and became Numenoreans are superior still by the gifts of the Valar for that loyalty and the fact that they essentially live closer to Heaven.
    It seems like you're arguing that the Numenoreans' superiority (for what it's worth; they have their flaws) is cultural, not racial? That they've basically absorbed elvish technology and so can live longer, be smarter, etc?

    I don't think this is borne out by the text. The books constantly talk about bloodlines. There's very little about cultural exchange. iirc, one of the reasons Aragorn can resist the ring so well is because he comes from a good bloodline; likewise with Faramir. I mean, this is how Europeans in the 1930's through 50's thought about things; certain people are born and bred of good stock; others aren't. I don't think it's unfair to assume that Tolkien was party to this worldview. Like everyone else on Earth, Tolkien was a product of his culture; but that doesn't mean he's above reproach, and it's also important to note that he wasn't even writing that long ago, we're talking about the 1950's, after WW2 and the repudiation of Nazism's bizarre evolutionary justification of racism, right before the civil rights movement in America.

    On the other hand, it's possible that Tolkien himself disavows this element of his writing and was simply imitating the worldview of medieval Europe, which is obviously the source material of much of LoTR. I think this is possible, so I'm willing to cut him some slack here (he is certainly a more "neutral" author, regarding the morality of the world he's writing about, than his contemporary C.S. Lewis, and modern writers like Philip Pullman—it's not clear how much Tolkien supports the moral worldviews of the people who are championed in LoTR).
    The same is true of the Elves. The Elves who first came to Valinor (aka Heaven) are the greatest, those who came second are a little lesser (and those who left in the Exile lost something because of that) and those who came third, and even then not all the way, are lesser still, and finally those who did not go are least.

    So the idea is that Numenoreans, or the Noldor, are part-divine. More like Hercules or other demihumans than normal mortals. Now, while there are again unfortunate connections to actual racist thought IRL, I think that you need to let go of that and evaluate the fantasy setting on it's own terms (unless it's supposed to be an allegory but LotR is decidedly not).
    Yeah, this is a good point. I've always thought the elves are really fascinating (one of the reasons why I've always liked the Silmarillion more than LoTR); they clearly aren't an allegory for any human society, they don't line up with their inlfuences nearly as well as the mortal races in the stories (Rohan = Vikings; Gondor = mishmash of "Western" civilizations; Hobbits = agrarian English).

    I guess I'm comfortable agreeing that it makes more sense to think of the Numenoreans as demigods than as straight-up humans, but again, they verge into regular humans, and there's weird racial shit that gets left over, which definitely leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    Qingu on
  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    streever wrote: »
    I don't think the eagles had the numbers or strength to transport the fellowship to the Crack of Doom. The flying Nazgul, bow-toting orcs, etc, would have butchered them.
    But lightning shooting wizards and bow-toting uruk-hai in Isengard did not?
    I think your arguments are flawed & arise out of your own bias and lack of perspective. How can you really compare Orcs--deliberate twisted creations in a fantasy world--with real-world races and conclude that Tolkien was racist and OK with genocide?
    Because they reflect a binary morality on the part of their author and the worst elements of humanity's mythology. I don't care that they're a fantasy creation and that it can be argued that they bare no resemblance to real-world races; I think it's petty, cheap, and stupid to invent a class of beings that serve as nothing more than monsters for the heroes to thoughtlessly slay en masse.
    Viewed through a modern PC lens I can see your point--kind of--but the inability to apply context or perspective to the work certainly undermines your criticism.
    It's not "modern." The Iliad treats antagonist armies like human beings and acknowledges their honor and morality. The best person from a moral standpoint in the Iliad—Hector—was a Trojan, not an Achaean.

    Even in the Ramayana—where the opposing army was literally a bunch of demons—the antagonists are portrayed as conscious, honorable beings generally worthy of respect.

    LoTR is largely a book about war. I think books about war, even fantasy books about war, are better off if they treat the subject with moral ambiguity and gravitas. If a book's antagonists are literally slavering deformed monsters who are completely and totally evil, I think that reflects a certain laziness on the author's part.

    Qingu on
  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    However, I disagree that the eagles rescuing Frodo was deliberate. I disagree that the eagles rescuing Gandalf was deliberate, or that Gandalf coming back from the dead was deliberate. Obvoiusly it's "deliberate" in the sense that he consciously wrote it, but I don't think it was well-planned when he was writing it. It strikes me as the result of him having written himself into a corner; he doesn't want these characters to die, but he writes them into situations they can't realistically escape from ("realistically" even in terms of the fantasy world's mechanics), so he resorts to supernatural salvation for them.

    I'll need to check when I get home, but having read History of Middle Earth, I do not think this is the case. Certainly not for Gandalf. His death and rebirth very much serve a thematic function.
    It seems like you're arguing that the Numenoreans' superiority (for what it's worth; they have their flaws) is cultural, not racial? That they've basically absorbed elvish technology and so can live longer, be smarter, etc?

    That and magic.
    I don't think this is borne out by the text. The books constantly talk about bloodlines. There's very little about cultural exchange. iirc, one of the reasons Aragorn can resist the ring so well is because he comes from a good bloodline; likewise with Faramir. I mean, this is how Europeans in the 1930's through 50's thought about things; certain people are born and bred of good stock; others aren't. I don't think it's unfair to assume that Tolkien was party to this worldview. Like everyone else on Earth, Tolkien was a product of his culture; but that doesn't mean he's above reproach, and it's also important to note that he wasn't even writing that long ago, we're talking about the 1950's, after WW2 and the repudiation of Nazism's bizarre evolutionary justification of racism, right before the civil rights movement in America.

    I don't deny that what is going on is in many ways similar to such views. However, I think that within the fantasy context it takes on a very different role. "Good bloodline" in this case is more like "magical heritage". Aragorn and other people with the blood of Numenor are not morally superior. If they were, Numenor would never have had the Fall. They are superior in abilities, just like DnD dwarves have darkvision and crap. They have these things because they were exposed to the divine, and these traits are passed down to their children.

    HamHamJ on
    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
    Qingu wrote: »
    streever wrote: »
    I don't think the eagles had the numbers or strength to transport the fellowship to the Crack of Doom. The flying Nazgul, bow-toting orcs, etc, would have butchered them.
    But lightning shooting wizards and bow-toting uruk-hai in Isengard did not?
    I think your arguments are flawed & arise out of your own bias and lack of perspective. How can you really compare Orcs--deliberate twisted creations in a fantasy world--with real-world races and conclude that Tolkien was racist and OK with genocide?
    Because they reflect a binary morality on the part of their author and the worst elements of humanity's mythology. I don't care that they're a fantasy creation and that it can be argued that they bare no resemblance to real-world races; I think it's petty, cheap, and stupid to invent a class of beings that serve as nothing more than monsters for the heroes to thoughtlessly slay en masse.
    Viewed through a modern PC lens I can see your point--kind of--but the inability to apply context or perspective to the work certainly undermines your criticism.
    It's not "modern." The Iliad treats antagonist armies like human beings and acknowledges their honor and morality. The best person from a moral standpoint in the Iliad—Hector—was a Trojan, not an Achaean.

    Even in the Ramayana—where the opposing army was literally a bunch of demons—the antagonists are portrayed as conscious, honorable beings generally worthy of respect.

    LoTR is largely a book about war. I think books about war, even fantasy books about war, are better off if they treat the subject with moral ambiguity and gravitas. If a book's antagonists are literally slavering deformed monsters who are completely and totally evil, I think that reflects a certain laziness on the author's part.

    Did they have to directly fly over Isengard? I mean I don't have flight plans for Middle Earth, but let's assume that they found SOME way to avoid that one area.

    As to the rest, sure, you can say it's a simplistic moral take and in some regards be right, but that boils down to personal preference. My argument is that your take on it as being "Racist" is incredibly inaccurate and can only work when you are looking back at it. I think from the detailed languages and histories developed it's awfully clear that he didn't intend to model Orcs on a real-world race (Unless you can find me a race created out of another race as part of a warped experiment by a rogue god).

    There is nothing inherently racist in the notion of a monster created out of something good! You can definitely dislike that, or think it's simple or stupid or not good enough, but it's extremely hard to categorize it as racist.

    streever on
  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    I'll need to check when I get home, but having read History of Middle Earth, I do not think this is the case. Certainly not for Gandalf. His death and rebirth very much serve a thematic function.
    I don't know. I don't think Tolkien planned what was going to happen when he was writing the first book. I seriously doubt that Tolkien knew Gandalf was going to come back when he killed him off.
    I don't deny that what is going on is in many ways similar to such views. However, I think that within the fantasy context it takes on a very different role. "Good bloodline" in this case is more like "magical heritage". Aragorn and other people with the blood of Numenor are not morally superior. If they were, Numenor would never have had the Fall. They are superior in abilities, just like DnD dwarves have darkvision and crap. They have these things because they were exposed to the divine, and these traits are passed down to their children.
    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.

    Qingu on
  • streeverstreever Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    I'll need to check when I get home, but having read History of Middle Earth, I do not think this is the case. Certainly not for Gandalf. His death and rebirth very much serve a thematic function.
    I don't know. I don't think Tolkien planned what was going to happen when he was writing the first book. I seriously doubt that Tolkien knew Gandalf was going to come back when he killed him off.
    I don't deny that what is going on is in many ways similar to such views. However, I think that within the fantasy context it takes on a very different role. "Good bloodline" in this case is more like "magical heritage". Aragorn and other people with the blood of Numenor are not morally superior. If they were, Numenor would never have had the Fall. They are superior in abilities, just like DnD dwarves have darkvision and crap. They have these things because they were exposed to the divine, and these traits are passed down to their children.
    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.

    Again, you are using racist viewpoints and applying them to Tolkien. Yes, racists use terms like that and think things like that. However, that doesn't mean that Tolkien felt the same way about any real world race. You are applying a PC lens of real world racists and history to a fantastical world which bears little to no resemblance to our world.

    Do people who live in the hot areas have darker skin? Yes. Does that mean they are stand-ins for Africans? No. While Tolkien uses basic concepts of pigmentation in relation to geographic proximity, it in no way implies that he is referring to any real world race as substandard.

    streever on
  • EgoEgo Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Fucking racist Tolkien. Remember that time a potential publisher in nazi Germany inquired by letter about whether Tolkien was a Jewish name, and Tolkien responded 'no, but I would be proud if it were' ?

    What a dickbag.

    Ego on
    Erik
  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    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.

    HamHamJ on
    While racing light mechs, your Urbanmech comes in second place, but only because it ran out of ammo.
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    The key point, I think, is that this is done very deliberately. The world of Middle Earth is ordered. We would generally describe this as karma, but is an idea I think shared by most religions, that events are bound in some purpose.
    I agree that LoTR's world has the metaphysics of an ordered religious mythology (and not in the insufferable way that, for example, Lewis' shit does). Some of my Christian internet friends once pointed out that the arc of the story is particularly Christian—because Frodo actually fails, he doesn't succeed in conquering evil on his own strength, but rather ends up relying on external happenstance and things beyond his control (much like how a sinner depends on Christ to save him).

    I'm not criticizing the books because they're Christiany—I liked that Frodo fails, on several levels, and I think Tolkien's mythology is, while failing to escape the metaphysics of his own personal religion (he can't quite write an alternate reality without a monotheistic god), is extremely inventive, nuanced, and beautiful.

    I also, despite not liking the books, really like this about them. Frodo fails. What saves the world is not inner strength or strength of arms or any of that. What saves the world is Frodo's act of kindness to Gollum in letting him live.
    However, I disagree that the eagles rescuing Frodo was deliberate. I disagree that the eagles rescuing Gandalf was deliberate, or that Gandalf coming back from the dead was deliberate. Obvoiusly it's "deliberate" in the sense that he consciously wrote it, but I don't think it was well-planned when he was writing it. It strikes me as the result of him having written himself into a corner; he doesn't want these characters to die, but he writes them into situations they can't realistically escape from ("realistically" even in terms of the fantasy world's mechanics), so he resorts to supernatural salvation for them.

    Again, I'm fine with supernatural shit in LoTR, I'm fine with it having an ordered, mythic worldview, but I disagree that this was the prime motivation for writing in the eagle rescues of Gandalf coming back to life. I think it is an ad hoc explanation concocted after Tolkien realized he wrote himself into a corner.

    This is nitpicky, I know, but it's something I'm personally very interested in (and critical of in my own stuff) as an aspiring author.

    It's not nitpicky at all. It's like a textbook case of Deus Ex Machina. Random shit out of nowhere comes and solves the problem you wrote yourself in to.
    It's not "modern." The Iliad treats antagonist armies like human beings and acknowledges their honor and morality. The best person from a moral standpoint in the Iliad—Hector—was a Trojan, not an Achaean.

    Even in the Ramayana—where the opposing army was literally a bunch of demons—the antagonists are portrayed as conscious, honorable beings generally worthy of respect.

    LoTR is largely a book about war. I think books about war, even fantasy books about war, are better off if they treat the subject with moral ambiguity and gravitas. If a book's antagonists are literally slavering deformed monsters who are completely and totally evil, I think that reflects a certain laziness on the author's part.

    If it makes you feel any better Qingu, as I remember, Tolkien himself had problems with this too. That's why there's some hints that Orcs are Elves that were carried off and warped by Morgoth. But it's not certain. Tolkien was trying to figure out how to explain the Orcs as he didn't like the idea of a wholly evil race.

    shryke on
  • Cameron_TalleyCameron_Talley Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    I think it is important to remember that Tolkien is a Philologist fist and an Author a distant second. He created his world and races to support the languages he invented.

    Cameron_Talley on
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  • streeverstreever Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    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.

    Precisely.

    Again, Qingu, you can definitely view the storytelling as simplistic or not good enough, and you are correct that on some levels there isn't a really compelling reason for what happens. I can even see some Deus Ex elements. However, your opinions on the thematic elements are largely irrelevant to the overall quality of the novels. Your opinion is based on you not liking Tolkien's monotheist views or his morality.

    While you are free to dislike them, it does not invalidate the quality of the novels.

    tl;dr you can disagree with someone else's moral viewpoints without claiming that they didn't write a compelling work

    streever on
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    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.

    shryke on
  • Crazy LarryCrazy Larry Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    I think it is important to remember that Tolkien is a Philologist fist and an Author a distant second. He created his world and races to support the languages he invented.

    Also important to note is that The Silmarillion was his life's work, and that the publishing of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings was somewhat accidental. Tolkien actually touches on some of the things you guys are debating outside of LOTR.

    Crazy Larry on
  • deadonthestreetdeadonthestreet Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    I don't know. I don't think Tolkien planned what was going to happen when he was writing the first book. I seriously doubt that Tolkien knew Gandalf was going to come back when he killed him off.

    You can find out though!


    Tolkien's son has collected most of the surviving early drafts of Lord of the Rings. I've only read the first couple, but the basic gist is that Tolkien had no idea what he was doing as he started out and rewrote everything a dozen times.

    deadonthestreet on
  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    streever wrote: »
    Precisely.

    Again, Qingu, you can definitely view the storytelling as simplistic or not good enough, and you are correct that on some levels there isn't a really compelling reason for what happens. I can even see some Deus Ex elements. However, your opinions on the thematic elements are largely irrelevant to the overall quality of the novels. Your opinion is based on you not liking Tolkien's monotheist views or his morality.

    While you are free to dislike them, it does not invalidate the quality of the novels.

    tl;dr you can disagree with someone else's moral viewpoints without claiming that they didn't write a compelling work
    1. I thought I made it clear that I'm not criticizing his mythic/Christian worldview, at least with respect to Frodo's failure and some elements. I'm not criticizing the monotheism of his mythology. I think his mythology is super awesome.

    2. I stand by my criticism of the black and white morality and childish views of warfare. My "opinion" is that this does invalidate the quality of the novels.

    3. You seem to be saying that "quality" is some sort of objective parameter of literature that can be judged entirely removed from one's "opinion" on the work's (for example) morals, worldview, and overall maturity. That's a pretty weird thing to say.

    Qingu on
  • Cameron_TalleyCameron_Talley Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    streever wrote: »
    Precisely.

    Again, Qingu, you can definitely view the storytelling as simplistic or not good enough, and you are correct that on some levels there isn't a really compelling reason for what happens. I can even see some Deus Ex elements. However, your opinions on the thematic elements are largely irrelevant to the overall quality of the novels. Your opinion is based on you not liking Tolkien's monotheist views or his morality.

    While you are free to dislike them, it does not invalidate the quality of the novels.

    tl;dr you can disagree with someone else's moral viewpoints without claiming that they didn't write a compelling work
    1. I thought I made it clear that I'm not criticizing his mythic/Christian worldview, at least with respect to Frodo's failure and some elements. I'm not criticizing the monotheism of his mythology. I think his mythology is super awesome.

    2. I stand by my criticism of the black and white morality and childish views of warfare. My "opinion" is that this does invalidate the quality of the novels.

    3. You seem to be saying that "quality" is some sort of objective parameter of literature that can be judged entirely removed from one's "opinion" on the work's (for example) morals, worldview, and overall maturity. That's a pretty weird thing to say.

    RE: 3. No, they are two different things. I think Hemingway's books are well-written and good storytelling. I also think they are complete and utter depressing shit.

    Okay, that's an over-simplification, but generally that's my thought. It is indeed possible to recognize that something is well crafted and yet completely dislike it.

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  • MarsMars Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    It's funny when people talk about LotR having "black and white" morality when the whole point of the theme is that there is no black and white morality. Every single being that's evil in the story had the potential to be good(well, maybe not Shelob, but who can really understand the motivations of a 3 ton spider?). The whole point of the good vs evil storyline was to juxtapose it against the inherently flawed but good-natured characters, almost all of whom(including Gandalf, who was essentially an angel) were tempted to evil. The choices they had were generally "Choose 1 for Good or 2 for Evil" but again, that's because it's meant to contrast the nature of the characters, and also because it's a fantasy epic.

    This racist crap is equally annoying. The Orcs aren't a statement on race, they're A) a primary source of physical conflict for the main characters and B)a statement that no creature, not even as noble as the Elves, is above descending into cruelty.

    It's just a couple really simple statements on morality inserted into a story that is ultimately about swords and wizards and demons.

    Mars on
  • CheezyCheezy Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    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.

    I would like for you to seriously turn your analytic eye on yourself and consider for a minute what you are actually doing here. You are actually meta-analyzing the plot of a sixty year old fantasy story through a modern, materialist rubric and are shocked to discover the incoherency of your conclusions. You've missed the point of the story and fiction in general. It isn't real and therefore does not conform to reality.

    This is the same reason I doubt you actually "get" religious myths and texts. Oh, sure, you'll probably point to your academic credentials, say how many classes you've taken the on the subject, and point to cocktail knowledge about similarities of flood myths, but I don't think you actually understand them. If you did, you'd know why Tolkien sent Gandalf back, why the Eagles show up at the conclusion, and why orcs are dark skinned.

    It's just apropos that you chose Qingu as your handle out of any other mythological creation.
    Qingu wrote:
    This makes no damn sense.

    We aren't allowed to discuss racial prejudice in slightly dated works of fiction because there is currently racial prejudice in the world?

    There are so many levels on which this is silly.

    Once again, actually reflect upon what you are doing. You are discussing racial prejudice in a sixty year old work of fantasy. You are getting offended for people that have larger concerns than whether or not a dead British author was harboring racist tendencies. You're not even fighting strawmen, you're just propping up corpses and judging them.
    Qingu wrote:
    The fact that LoTR is so popular and pervasive is all the more reason to examine it critically, both in terms of its literary merits and in its underlying ideology (and prejudices).

    Bullshit. There is no legitimate reason to analyze it except to justify academic brattishness. Not only is analysis of it relatively fruitless, but there are hundreds of thousands of more worthy texts and events to document and analyze, let alone criticize, than the fantasy world of a dead British man.

    The Southrons are an incredibly minor element in a large overarching work and probably have less than a hundred words dedicated to them in toto. If the pivot of a critical analysis is from a point that minor, I think the methodology is probably more damaging to the world than whatever Tolkien supposedly had to say about Arabs.

    As for the Orcs, there's no credible argument that even remotely approaches tenability that isn't a wholesale creation of the arguer. You're not even making a mountain out of a molehill. You're creating an anthill and then magnifying it.
    Qingu wrote:
    Your post has the bizarre aura of a religious apologist defending his scripture.

    Your post has the aura of an Inquisitor who, lacking real heretics to burn, makes them himself.

    EDIT: And just for fun: "The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own." The Return of the King VI 1: "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"

    Cheezy on
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Mars wrote: »
    It's funny when people talk about LotR having "black and white" morality when the whole point of the theme is that there is no black and white morality. Every single being that's evil in the story had the potential to be good(well, maybe not Shelob, but who can really understand the motivations of a 3 ton spider?). The whole point of the good vs evil storyline was to juxtapose it against the inherently flawed but good-natured characters, almost all of whom(including Gandalf, who was essentially an angel) were tempted to evil. The choices they had were generally "Choose 1 for Good or 2 for Evil" but again, that's because it's meant to contrast the nature of the characters, and also because it's a fantasy epic.

    Except that's still black-and-white morality.

    It's still saying "This is perfectly good, this is totally evil". All it does is make the conflict internal. It's an internal struggle between our evil-as-HitlerStalin urges and our Carebears-that-shit-Unicorn urges.

    shryke on
  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Cheezy: Chill out.
    Qingu wrote: »
    I don't know. I don't think Tolkien planned what was going to happen when he was writing the first book. I seriously doubt that Tolkien knew Gandalf was going to come back when he killed him off.

    I checked. Gandalf returning is immediately present in the plan at the time the Moria chapters were written. Although, the original plan was apparently to just have him go "Oh yeah, that bottomless chasm I fell into turned out to not be that deep and it had water in it. More like a small moat really. So I just swam out."

    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.

    HamHamJ on
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  • SithDrummerSithDrummer Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    LoTR is largely a book about war. I think books about war, even fantasy books about war, are better off if they treat the subject with moral ambiguity and gravitas. If a book's antagonists are literally slavering deformed monsters who are completely and totally evil, I think that reflects a certain laziness on the author's part.
    This is where you and I fundamentally disagree, I think. LotR is a legend, an extended fairy tale. If it was science fiction, it would be a space opera. In such stories, characters (especially the villains) are taken to extremes, become caricatures. As such, it is not necessary to humanize the villains in these types of tales, though it does happen in some cases.

    edit: In fact, one of the reasons I like The Silmarillion so much is because it zooms outward from the simplistic view in LotR (and of course even moreso in The Hobbit) and suddenly you get 1) a backstory of the "bad guys" that adds dimension to what was conveyed simply in LotR, and 2) a historical accounting that puts the events of LotR in perspective, bringing it to a smaller, less "legendary" scale.

    SithDrummer on
  • SageinaRageSageinaRage Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Cross posting this so we can set the stupid eagles debate to rest:
    lu tze wrote:
    If the eagles had tried to help from the start, Sauron would've noticed and fucked them over... in case you weren't reading, the ringbearer was kinda trying to keep a low profile.

    Ding ding fucking ding. The eagles can't just fly frodo down because the unblinking eye would have spotted them immediately. The only way they were ever going to get the ring down there was by sneaking it down , unnoticed, via the smallest of creatures which were beneath sauron's notice. That was one of the main points of the book, was that his destruction depended on the small weak hobbits, which he considered too weak to do anything to him.

    SageinaRage on
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  • streeverstreever Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Cross posting this so we can set the stupid eagles debate to rest:
    lu tze wrote:
    If the eagles had tried to help from the start, Sauron would've noticed and fucked them over... in case you weren't reading, the ringbearer was kinda trying to keep a low profile.

    Ding ding fucking ding. The eagles can't just fly frodo down because the unblinking eye would have spotted them immediately. The only way they were ever going to get the ring down there was by sneaking it down , unnoticed, via the smallest of creatures which were beneath sauron's notice. That was one of the main points of the book, was that his destruction depended on the small weak hobbits, which he considered too weak to do anything to him.

    I don't think that matters to him--he seems to be heavily focused on ignoring objectivity and the possibility that something could have be essentially quality despite his not liking it.

    streever on
  • CheezyCheezy Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    The real question is whether Balrogs have wings or not. I, personally, am of the camp of chicken Balrogs, in which they have wings but cannot fly.

    Cheezy on
  • CycloneRangerCycloneRanger Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    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.

    It also seems clear that Sauron (and perhaps the Ring, and certainly Sauron with the Ring) also has the power to control and empower other beings directly. He seems to personally control and strengthen his orcs, trolls, and human thralls by the strength of his "spirit". Having a magical bloodline does seem to help with that, as the more "powerful" beings only seem to fall under Sauron's direct control after succumbing to their own weaknesses (e.g. the Nazgul, who were once kings until they became corrupt and wicked under the influence of the Nine and subsequently became the direct servants of Sauron). There are a couple times where Sauron controls Frodo that way, too, while Aragorn manages to pull the reverse and actually forces Sauron's spirit out of the Palantir using his own... I don't know what to call it; it's sort of like willpower or maybe intrinsic magic. There's kind of a running theme of some beings/characters having great power in the spirit realm, and part of that definitely seems inherited.

    That's how it seemed to me, anyway. It has been many years since I read those books, but I definitely remember there being two ways in which Sauron influenced others—directly exerting his spirit against them and manipulating their own weaknesses to cause them to fall. Only one of those seems influenced by one's heritage.


    Also, a fun but irrelevant fact: some Orcs are supposed to have fought alongside men and elves (and also some other Orcs against them) at the Battle of Dagorlad in the first age.

    CycloneRanger on
  • AvicusAvicus Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    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.

    Avicus on
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  • Cameron_TalleyCameron_Talley 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.

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  • GlalGlal AiredaleRegistered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Not so much wrong as purposefully different. Guess they just thought some random person being immune to the ring would work against the "all-corrupting threat" the story had worked so hard to establish.

    Glal on
  • NarianNarian Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    Besides to these people in a time with swords and boards, blood and bloodlines were extremely important and thinking they held a unique power would be par of the course - though I am inclined to agree with Cameron, it has nothing to do with blood and everything to do with with the individual man.

    Narian on
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  • streeverstreever Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    "But fear no more! I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory. No, I do not wish for such triumphs, Frodo son of Drogo." (from wikipedia with citation to the book)

    It's clear that resisting evil isn't about bloodlines. I think to come to the conclusion that Orcs represent some real-world race and that blood purity is some indicator of evil shows more of an obsession with eugenics and real-world racial conflicts/genocides than it does careful reading of the texts discussed. It fails on the most basic criteria as criticism because it does not reflect what actually happens in the book.

    streever on
  • MrVyngaardMrVyngaard Live From New Etoile Straight Outta SosariaRegistered User regular
    edited July 2010
    streever wrote: »
    "But fear no more! I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory. No, I do not wish for such triumphs, Frodo son of Drogo." (from wikipedia with citation to the book)

    It's clear that resisting evil isn't about bloodlines.

    I would agree on this point and suggest that Faramir due to his posting has become much more familiar with the traps that Sauron uses (all kinds), unlike his father and brother who have been far enough away to give into their own hubris/despair, not seeing ultimately both are well-trod avenues for corruption by the Enemy in the East.

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  • valiancevaliance Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    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.

    Even though they have the same parents for some reason the blood of Numenor is stronger in Faramir (and Denethor!) than in Boromir.
    blood of westernesse is a homozygous recessive trait?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faramir
    Wikipedia wrote:
    in case of Faramir, it is stated that "by some chance the blood of Westernesse [ran] nearly true" in him, which was rare.[13] This trait was elaborated by Tolkien through the speech of Pippin
    :
    “ Here was one with an air of high nobility such as Aragorn at times revealed, less high perhaps, yet also less incalculable and remote: one of the Kings of Men born into a later time, but touched with the wisdom and sadness of the Elder Race. [...] He was a captain that men would follow, [...] even under the shadow of the black wings.[12]

    also Gandalf speaking to Pippin about Denethor:
    'He is not as other men of this time, Pippin, and whatever be his descent from father to son, by some chance the blood of Westernesse runs nearly true in him; as it does in his other son, Faramir, and yet did not in Boromir whom he loved best....'
    Also, a fun but irrelevant fact: some Orcs are supposed to have fought alongside men and elves (and also some other Orcs against them) at the Battle of Dagorlad in the first age.

    whaaat? o_O where'd you read this?

    on racism: LotR is conceived explicitly as a fairy tale for the English people. combine that with the metaphysics (the closer you are to the Valar and the West the better) and you explain nearly everything.

    The orcs don't really bug me, neither as irredeemable one dimensional antagonists nor as unintentionally racist portrayals.

    The haradrim and other easterlings are a bit troublesome, but hey at least its not as bad as 300 :P

    valiance on
  • ParadisoParadiso Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    So, the first thing that comes to mind regarding Tolkien and racism is the relationship between Legolas and Gimli. There is clearly an antagonistic relationship between the two with epithets thrown about, but through time they become friends. Now, Gimli wasn't a dark skinned, tusked savage, but that at least should be some sort of counter-point to whatever critique we're assigning regarding his depictions of race and intolerance.

    In terms of Men, my interpretation was that if you lived close enough to Mordor then buckle up, son, 'cause your shit is gonna get corrupted (Haradwaith, Rhun). The Corsairs were an off-shoot of Numenoreans that rebelled. The movie depicted them far differently than I'd always imagined them.

    The gaping hole in this theory is, of course, Gondor. But the people we hear about from there do show a vulnerability versus corruption (Isildur, Denethor, Boromir) with some sterling examples to the contrary (Aragorn, Faramir).

    Paradiso on
  • Cameron_TalleyCameron_Talley Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    As an English major, I have to consider the fact that "Blood of the westernesse" is not literal but metaphorical. It's about people's wills, not whether or not they have some mythical blood that gives them powers running through their veins.

    The Numenoreans were simply a stronger-willed people.

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  • MelksterMelkster Registered User regular
    edited July 2010
    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.

    Melkster on
  • streeverstreever 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.

    Definitely, and if Qingu left it at that, I'd fully accept his point of view. It is his assertion and insistence that their are real-world racist overtones and some apologist viewpoint for genocide which I take issue with. I also think he failed to point at the real holes in the plot, instead focusing on things like the minor intervention of the eagles and blowing it out of proportion to the rest of the text.

    Honestly, I'm surprised that he didn't find MORE plot holes.

    streever on
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