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Minas Tirith Forums » History of Middle-earth » Tolkien's histories are true (Page 1)
Author Topic: Tolkien's histories are true
Hopafoot
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In this topic I would like to discuss the idea that Tolkien's writings (at least the ones concerning Arda) are actual histories. There is much to say, and what I write here is only an attempt to begin this discussion. All Elves and men are descended from one pair, "Adam and Eve." Although both Augustine and Aquinas believed (or so I have heard) that the Fall occurred before "Adam and Eve" had any children, Augustine and Aquinas also said that Adam and Eve could have had children (yes, through coition) before the Fall. It is my hypothesis that there were many generations of children before the Fall, and that the Fall involved only part of the descendants, who became "men" (fallen men); the rest remained "elves" (unfallen men). (Now, it is a bit more complicated than this, because, as Tolkien writes in one of his letters, the "elves," or some of them, also "fell," but in a very different fashion from "men"). Before the Fall, humans were stupendously different from what we know as human. (Here, I should also note that the Fall might be both an event and a progression: for example, the clouding over of the natural law, and in more essential ways.) They had no darkening of the intellect or weakening of the will, which were consequent on the Fall, according to Catholic/Christian doctrine. Thomas Aquinas says, in the Summa Theologica, that before the Fall Adam and Eve (and their putative descendants)
1. knew everything (certain qualifications)
2. could not be deceived
3. their reason was subject to God, the lower powers of the soul subject to reason, and the body subject to the soul
4. had "all the virtues"
5. had mastership over all animals and all creatures
6. were immortal
7. were impassible
8. were born "in a state of righteousness"
At the very end of the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings, there is a paragraph (containing a strange sentence with obvious Christian allusions) in which Tolkien discusses the difference between Elves and Men. It comes immediately before "Note on three names: Hobbit, Gamgee, and Brandywine." Note that, according to Catholic/Christian doctrine, Adam and Eve were not necessarily, according to nature, to be brought to the beatific vision.
* * *
Gosh, lots to say. This is only the merest beginning. There is a letter of Tolkien (no. 187), which, when one reads, it is difficult to think that Tolkien saw his "sub-creation" as a fiction. (I know that in another letter, he answers the question "is it a history?" ambiguously and seemingly in the negative; but he is cagey.)
The reason we don't have now any evidences of, say, Gondor, is because the Enemy probably triumphed (at the end of the fourth age) and destroyed nearly all traces of the ancient West.
As for talking beasts etc., I suppose that Elves might be able to insinuate a rational or rational-like principle into animals, in a "magical" way. There is anti-craft ("he who breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom"), which works against nature, craft (working with nature), natural substances, and magical things, which are enhanced natural substances. Perhaps. Forgive the very shoddy expression of this post. I am only trying to make a beginning of the discussion.

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Grimwulf Stormspear
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This way to lithium treatment. []
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Hopafoot
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[]
I know almost nothing about the non-human/non-elf speaking creatures of Middle-earth. I remember Tolkien says that after the Third Age, they declined. But how prevalent were they, and of what kinds? Sauron apparently had evil birds and beasts in his service, right? The Eagles talk. According to Aristotle, animals and plants do have "souls" (not like ours, however). Perhaps great intelligences (High Elves, Maiar) would be able to "enhance" these souls, which is not to say, make them rational.

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Mithrennaith
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‘[T]he idea that Tolkien's writings (at least the ones concerning Arda) are actual histories’ can be taken in two ways. Either as the Ardalogical assumption, or as Tolkianic belief.

Ardalogy is the study of Eä by means of the academic tools of history, politicology, sociology, philosophy and their auxilliary sciences, as if the sources we have available in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien were real historical sources. That is, one assumes that the histories are true, and finds out what can be deduced from that assumption. For most people who like Ardalogical reasoning and investigations this is just an intellectual excercise, and the assumption is just that; they don't really believe the stories are true. But it can be extremely interesting to investigate how believable and consistent the world created by Tolkien actually was.

Tolkien's own position seemed to change during his life; in the Foreword to the 1st edition of LotR he implied the histories in it were true, in the Foreword to the 2nd edition he said they were fiction. This can, however, be clarified with the following passage from PoMe:
quote:
On one of his copies of the First Edition my father wrote beside it: 'This Foreword I should wish very much in any case to cancel. Confusing (as it does) real personal matters with the "machinery" of the Tale is a serious mistake.'

- [PME 1 II after first text:9]

The ‘"machinery" of the Tale’ here presumably refers to the pseudo-translation device, as it has been called by Allan Turner and others, pretending that the whole history has been translated from historical documents. That this should not be confused with ‘real ..... matters’ implies that the stories were not historically true - saying so in the 1st edition Foreword merely belonged to the pseudo-translation device.

That Tolkien did not himself consider his writings to be true histories can also be seen from the following passage from one of his letters:
quote:
Mine is not an 'imaginary' world, but an imaginary historical moment on 'Middle-earth' – which is our habitation.

- [L 183:15]

The world in which they were set may have been imagined as the real world, but they took place at ‘an imaginary historical moment’; thus they were not real, but fictional.

The belief that Tolkien's stories are actually true is found, not in academic discussion, but rather in the Tolkianic Church, which is said to have a sort of underground existence in Russia, and takes them as "the gospel according to St. Ronald of Oxford". Tolkien's own reaction can be guessed at from this passage:
quote:
[Auden had invited Tolkien to contribute to a festschrift marking the retirement of Nevill Coghill. He also asked if Tolkien knew that a 'New York Tolkien Society' had been formed, and said he feared that most of the members would be lunatics.]
.....
Yes, I have heard about the Tolkien Society. Real lunatics don't join them, I think. But still such things fill me too with alarm and despondency.

- [L 275 headnote & #4]

It seems he would have given the same advice as Grimwulf in graver language.

But when proceeding only from the Ardalogical assumption, the proposal in the first post meets with at least one objection: The idea that Elves are unfallen Men is incompatible with the Fall of Men in Eä, as described by Tolkien in the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth.

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
I am in too great doubt to rule. To prepare or to let be? To prepare for war, which is yet only guessed: train craftsmen and tillers in the midst of peace for bloodspilling and battle: put iron in the hands of greedy captains who will love only conquest, and count the slain as their glory? Will they say to Eru: At least your enemies were amongst them? Or to fold hands, while friends die unjustly: let men live in blind peace, until the ravisher is at the gate? What then will they do: match naked hands against iron and die in vain, or flee leaving the cries of women behind them? Will they say to Eru: At least I spilled no blood?
'When either way may lead to evil, of what worth is choice? Let the Valar rule under Eru!
- Tar Meneldur [UT 2 II:173-174]

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Roll of Honor Varnafindë
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quote:
Although both Augustine and Aquinas believed (or so I have heard) that the Fall occurred before "Adam and Eve" had any children, Augustine and Aquinas also said that Adam and Eve could have had children (yes, through coition) before the Fall.
The first time the Bible states that "Adam knew his wife", was after the Fall. I can't see any coition (or at least not any worth mentioning, i.e. resulting in issue) before that.

So even if Tolkien had tried to have us believe that he was writing actual history - which he doesn't - I think that your hypothesis of many generations before the Fall does not work.

And I would also advise you to study Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, if you haven't done so already.

[ 12-01-2009, 01:41 AM: Message edited by: Varnafindë ]

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Roll of Honor Athene
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I am loth to discourage a newbie interested in discussing the literature, but I think I must concur with Grim on this one. []

I find it interesting, however, that it is the idea that Tolkien's tales are histories that will get you labelled as crazy, rather than your interpretation of Genesis as factual.
[]

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Inc'
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Ah ! Good one []
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Roll of Honor Athene
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I know, I know, stuck record.
[]
[]

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Roll of Honor pi
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and yet apparently still in need of repeating...
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Grimwulf Stormspear
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Interesting, perhaps, but hardly surprising. [] I know quite a few people who believe that Genesis is a literal account in its entirety. Most of them a quite sane. A few even have doctorates in the natural sciences. I regard that view as overly literal, but these people are clearly not insane by any usual definition.

Quite frankly, I am much more baffled by educated people who hold left-wing political views. [] Anyone with any sense of history should want a strong military, not the ceremonial guards of most EU countries or the underfunded militia of Obama-era America. Anyone with any sense of economics should want less regulation, less taxation, and less union power, not more. Anyone with any appreciation of American law and democracy should want Scalia, not Sotomayor. Anyone who cares for equality should want less Affirmative Action, less “positive action,” and fewer set-aside programs, not more. And yet wooly-headed professors subscribe to this whole range of nonsense.

[ 12-08-2009, 08:02 PM: Message edited by: Grimwulf Stormspear ]

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Hopafoot
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I wrestled for a long time with the question, "How did all of this (Tolkien's work) come to be?" It is so intricate, so detailed, so complex and involved, that I could not believe it was "made up," so to speak, by a single human intellect! I do not invite anyone to believe, nor do I believe for sure, that Tolkien's writings are a genuine history. It does sound crazy. But I want to contemplate the possibility, with any other lunatic who may be about.

The Master does not reject out of hand the idea that his writings are a genuine history. From letter 211, to Rhona Beare: "May I say that all this is 'mythical', and not any kind of new religion or vision. As far as I know it is merely an imaginative invention, to express, in the only way I can, some of my (dim) apprehensions of the world. All I can say is that, if it were 'history', it would be difficult to fit the lands and events (or 'cultures') into such evidence as we possess, archaeological or geological... I could have fitted things in with greater versimilitude, if the story had not become too far developed, before the question ever occurred to me."

Tolkien often writes as if he is mystified by his own work, and he does not claim to understand fully his sub-creation. Tolkien is also a guarded man who "keeps his own counsel," and rarely does he express his full mind. Often he speaks hypothetically (the hypothesis might be "of course my work, as you think, is fiction"). He is also exceedingly humble (after writing The Lord of the Rings, he put it aside for a long time and was not sure it was good enough to be published!), and if he did have any inkling that his writings were true history, he would hardly admit it to himself, let alone someone else.
I do not think we will find anything in Tolkien *conclusively* against his work being historical. The most Tolkien reveals on the sourcing of his oeuvre may be the very obscure work Smith of Wootton Major, of which he says, somewhere (I forget), that it is, contrary to his habit, an allegory with the Great Hall being the "church". (I have never read any narrative more obscure than Smith of Wootton Major.)

There is a very strange comment in Note D to On Fairy-stories: "Nature is no doubt a life-study, or a study for eternity (for those so gifted)..." Who would these people be, if not dwarves, who reek not Eru but are destined to serve Aule in the new creation? Who would Tolkien be speaking of here?

I think Tolkien's dismay over the Tolkien Society was that people might make a religion out of his work.

If we look through history, beginning at the most remote days, we see the general decline of nature and increase of grace, and if I were to extrapolate beyond, the Third, Second, and First Ages fit right in (for me). Now we have fought the long defeat for three or four more ages, until nature itself seems to be dissolving, time and space collapsed. Fading trees, fading water, fading men. And we are much less than the soldiers of Minas Tirith, and then far more.

If Tolkien is fiction, I consider him to be greater, all by himself, than the entire Western canon.

In my humble and crazy opinion,
Hopafoot

[ 12-02-2009, 02:48 AM: Message edited by: Hopafoot ]

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Roll of Honor pi
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quote:
It is so intricate, so detailed, so complex and involved, that I could not believe it was "made up," so to speak
Yes, the details, the intricacies, the wonder of it all - this made it special beyond all other stories. When I first read it back in the mid-70s, I wanted to believe it to be true. It "felt" real in a sense that no other did to me.
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Mithrennaith
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Viewed in this light, the interesting bit in the quote from the letter to Rhona Beare is of course:
quote:
I could have fitted things in with greater versimilitude, if the story had not become too far developed, before the question ever occurred to me.
It almost makes it look like Tolkien, as a (sub)creator, could have decided whether the story was true or not, or whether it could or could not be proven not to be true, and didn't really care one way or the other.

All relevant quotes and thoughts, to be sure.

quote:
I think Tolkien's dismay over the Tolkien Society was that people might make a religion out of his work.
Which the Tolkien Society (which was not the one referred to, b.t.w.), or other Tolkien societies for that matter, doesn't do, as Tolkien found out when he talked with Vera Chapman and agreed to become honourary President. Some Russians, however, do ...

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
I am in too great doubt to rule. To prepare or to let be? To prepare for war, which is yet only guessed: train craftsmen and tillers in the midst of peace for bloodspilling and battle: put iron in the hands of greedy captains who will love only conquest, and count the slain as their glory? Will they say to Eru: At least your enemies were amongst them? Or to fold hands, while friends die unjustly: let men live in blind peace, until the ravisher is at the gate? What then will they do: match naked hands against iron and die in vain, or flee leaving the cries of women behind them? Will they say to Eru: At least I spilled no blood?
'When either way may lead to evil, of what worth is choice? Let the Valar rule under Eru!
- Tar Meneldur [UT 2 II:173-174]

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Grimwulf Stormspear
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Interesting. []

quote:
Tolkien: I could have fitted things in with greater verisimilitude, if the story had not become too far developed, before the question ever occurred to me.

Wetty: ‘verisimilitude’ Couldn't even pronounce it but I’m sure it says more about a person that feels the need to use obscure words from the dictionary than what they are actually trying to say.

Very interesting. []
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Hopafoot
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some further light on the Master (who, by the way, must be accounted one of the greatest philosophers in history, but that's another subject) and his supposedly fictional histories...

Letter 328 to Carole Batten-Phelps, the two paragraphs about the Gandalf-like visitor

You know, when I read, say, the king-list of Numenor, or that of Rohan, when I read the long passages about the migrations of Hobbits, when I read the description of the various armors of Gondolin (their colors, standards, etc.)... I almost laugh b/c either:
(a) Tolkien was an absolute freak with alien mental powers; to say "oh, he had a good imagination," is like saying, "yeah, that Stalin guy had a mean-streak"
(b) he was recording history (as well as he knew it)
One of the most extreme examples of this freakishness is letter 214 to A. C. Nunn!!! check it out.

If I had Homer, Shakespeare, Dante, Dickens, Kafka, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Vergil, Chaucer, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and as many others as you want, in one pile, and Tolkien in the other, and I had to burn one, I'm keeping the Tolkien. Heraclitus said of Homer, "Homer should be turned out of the lists and whipped." (What is Greek mythology* but petty disgusting rubbish next to the Ainulindale and Valaquenta? What is the Trojan War next to the march of the Last Alliance or the Battle of Unnumbered Tears?) Tolkien speaks dismissively of Dante and Cervantes. There was a time in my life when I took for granted that the great names wrote truly great works. No longer. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps only bad fiction/lit is remembered, canonized, b/c it is fashionable; while truly great works (such as Tolkien) are deprecated ("oh, that's silly; children's stuff"). Works of literature that will have no truck with sin and the d*vil are rejected by the those who think they know better. An example of this from the visual arts. I have seen lots of crucifixes in art history classes and in art books. Most of them to me are quite bad. The two best crucifixes I have ever seen were one at the back of a book store and another one in a cathedral. I suppose the really good crucifixes and images of Mary, down the ages, have been forgotten, b/c they were just too darn glowing with the light of Glory. Because, as everyone knows, of course, to compromise with the d*vil is just commonsense.

*what we know as Greek mythology. maybe a better one was not preserved.

[ 12-09-2009, 03:38 AM: Message edited by: Hopafoot ]

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Roll of Honor Varnafindë
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quote:
while truly great works (such as Tolkien) are deprecated ("oh, that's silly; children's stuff").
quote:
(...) many of the best fantasy books had traditionally been published and sold for children, presumably on the basis that children are interested in nursery stuff like courage, heroism, adventure and the possibility of changing the world for the better (whereas adults are grown-up - and perhaps prefer reading about adultery).
(Terry Pratchett)


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Hopafoot
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Couldn't put it any better, Varnafinde.

Today I read The Druedain in Unfinished Tales, and enjoyed it enormously. It's not so much that Tolkien is imaginative to the nth degree. It's beyond that. If Tolkien had actually made that (the history in The Druedain) up, it would be more "imaginative". The same goes for the rest of his work. It's just not like what a person imagines. It's like history, containing some tedious and out-of-the-way bits, some dead-ends. People don't imagine stuff like that. The spectrum of "feel" in Tolkien ranges far outside of "the imaginative."

[ 12-10-2009, 08:06 PM: Message edited by: Hopafoot ]

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Grimwulf Stormspear
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“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”
~T. S. Eliot


Hopafoot, most people here probably think you’re worse than crazy. [] They may not be able to put a finger on it, but they sense there’s something deeply wrong even beyond the nonsense about “Tolkien’s histories are true.”

Tolkien did not live or write in a vacuum. [] If his details often resemble history, it is because they are meant to resemble history. In many cases, the various details are based on actual histories & earlier stories that may or may not have historical roots. The details are re-worked to fit the context of the narrative, but they are not original to Tolkien.

It is no accident that Tolkien was a Beowulf scholar. [] It is no accident that Tolkien studied, translated, & taught old legends, poems, & stories. These ancient tales provide the cultural vocabulary that Tolkien employs.

Tolkien would be unhappy with you. [] His own books are full of allusions to other writers. The huorn forest outside Helm’s Deep is a beautiful re-imagining of a scene from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, to take one obvious example. The tale of Turin is a re-telling of a Finnish legend. Others here who are more knowledgeable in such matters could multiply such examples.

Tolkien would be unhappy with you. [] Almost the thing last he would want is to dismiss the great corpus of Western literature that he loved so dearly. I don’t know which he would hate more: the idolatry of holding him up as a false god “with alien mental powers” or the damnable folly of treating him as a false prophet recording “histories” that sharply conflict with what we know about the ancient & prehistoric world.

Tolkien would be unhappy with you. [] You’re claiming that his long hours of work & creation, full of writing, re-writing, and re-imagining were not creative at all, but simply the work of someone recording a history already given to him. You denigrate his accomplishment.

We like Tolkien. [] For these reasons, your distortions are not well-received here.

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Hopafoot
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GS, I thought you found my ideas, "Interesting. Very interesting."

You wrote:
"The huorn forest outside Helm’s Deep is a beautiful re-imagining of a scene from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, to take one obvious example."

Tolkien wrote: "[The Ents'] part in the story is due, I think, to my bitter disappointment and disgust from schooldays with the shabby use made in Shakespeare of the coming of 'Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill'." (Letter 163, to Auden)

GS, you wrote:
"The tale of Turin is a re-telling of a Finnish legend."

Tolkien wrote: "...the tragic tale of Turin Turambar and his sister Niniel -- of which Turin is the hero: a figure that might be said (by people who like that sort of thing, though it is not very useful) to be derived from elements in Sigurd the Volsung, Oedipus, and the Finnish Kullervo." (Letter 131, to Waldman)
Note the parenthesis.

But honestly I don't have time or energy to argue. We are both entitled to have our own opinions. If mine are not well received at MT, I will simply stop posting.

[ 12-12-2009, 01:35 AM: Message edited by: Hopafoot ]

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Grimwulf Stormspear
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Wow. []

quote:
Hoppedup: GS, I thought you found my ideas, “Interesting. Very interesting.”
Not even remotely. [] I found Tolkien’s use of the word “verisimilitude” interesting. I found it very interesting in light of Wetwang’s remark regarding the term “verisimilitude” that “Couldn’t even pronounce it but I’m sure it says more about a person that feels the need to use obscure words from the dictionary than what they are actually trying to say.”

And look at how Tolkien uses the term:

quote:
I could have fitted things in with greater verisimilitude, if the story had not become too far developed, before the question ever occurred to me.
Tolkien is saying that he created his histories. [] If he had thought of matching them to actual history earlier in the creative process, he could have shaped the details to look more like primary-world history. This comment makes no sense if his histories are “true” histories of the primary world.

More generally, I take your comments as evidence that you know nothing about the creative process. [] No one with any experience in shaping a story would spout this nonsense.

The letters you cite confirm my point. [] Tolkien wrote in the shadow of the previous corpus.

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White Gold Wielder
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(Yes, you read the post time right)

Grim and any others harshing the vibe:

You are most certainly missing the point here. And this is aside from the fact that you spurn others for perceived deification while you preach about your own interpretation of "Tolkien's Will" (all while you ignore points and quotes to the contrary). We are all walking, breathing distortions, and Tolkien (like all of us) probably wouldn't appreciate being put in a box. (See how I'm saying "what Tolkien would want" to prove that we should take care in saying what Tolkien would want, because I'm really not talking about Tolkien but rather everyone - which I am qualified to take a stab at. Sub Tle Ty.)

Look in a mirror, fly your hand over your head and say "whoosh". Please don't take offense. At least you've got company. There is a level of subtlety here that, in my experience, not many people get, and it's one of the things that make me weep for the movie generation (not that that's you). Let me take a crack at breaking it down.

We are talking about the notion of Tolkien's Middle-earth as being a record of the history of the actual planet we live on called Earth. Here is the key point, and let me be so clear that the point is actually surrounded by keys:

 - We know it's really not reality.  -

In fact, one of the most important factors to understanding this notion is being aware that it is not real. Let me explain...

It's a mental exercise. It may be counter-intuitive to make a statement that almost demands that it be taken as false, but there are plenty of other examples in the world if you look for them. Did you know there are mathematicians who dispute the concept of infinity? They have usually been spurned as you have spurned poor Hopafoot here, but as a mental exercise, it is useful in pushing the boundaries of understanding. Of course, people can forget that infinity itself was "authored" by Man. And there's always a critic.

As far as purpose or intention, it is only to see where the idea takes us.

That's it. The rest is just details and not relevant to the concept. If you don't get the above, don't expect to be enlightened by my personal account below.

I think the thing that is usually downplayed in discussions like this are the feelings involved. There may have been some posts here on the subject, but since search is fried, I can't confirm the fact. However, my own thoughts and emotions on this have been largely kept my own. Until now.

There are two things at play here - the discovery and the logical conclusion.

The discovery is intoxicating. I would venture to say it has more of an impact if the concept comes from your own mind, but I have only my own experience to guide me. I vividly remember the moment when it dawned on me. I don't remember the exact date, but I can picture the scene. I can be in that moment if let my imagination reign. Sometimes the lightning strikes so hard, you feel so awed by a concept, that humility kicks in and you tell yourself that the idea isn't yours, but was always there - left by its creator to be found. I imagine mathematicians feel something similar when they unlock elegant truths that were waiting behind some door.

I was letting my mind toy with the concept of the ringwraiths' flying steeds as dinosaurs. It's hinted at in the book, but I was fleshing out the concept. It seems a more stable link to our reality than even oliphants. To me, it was a doorway of possibility.

In a flurry of thought, the Valar became "real" and The Silmarillion became my own world's history. Now, before you start to protest, let me take it that extra step that many seem to have trouble taking on their own.

Imagine the effect of dinosaur bones on Man even just a few hundred years ago. There were monsters that lived, and might still live somewhere in the wide world. It’s not so much of a stretch to imagine that a great evil might enslave such lesser monsters to its own will. A tall tale with a grain of truth in it. Until very recently, there was no way to prove just how tall a tale it was. Hmm…

What about Jesus? Was he a real, living 10-year-old about two millennia ago? Did this man say and do everything he is given credit for? Perhaps. And perhaps he was three guys that each really spoke his words into our real air at different times, and these three were joined into one man by the ancient tale-smiths. Maybe Jesus was twelve guys. The point is, were his words spoken by a man in my own reality? I’d like to think so. Many others would REALLY like to think so.

Now, take Fëanor. Did he exist? Or was he an amalgam of people and their own personal tales? Regardless, I’d like to believe that the spirit of Fëanor is in some way within the history of my own people and actually breathed under the same sky that I do.

I don’t want to lose anyone here, so let’s take a moment and look at that again. Did Fëanor exist? I’d like to think so. <wink> Do we understand each other?

Let’s look to the heavens and the deeps and see what we see. Manwë. Ulmo. Varda. Were they real? I think they were as real and the sky, sea and stars. Once again, let me clarify. They were as real as anthropomorphized natural phenomenon can be real. Ah, but let’s take a step forward again. Who takes credit for their words? What takes credit for their deeds? Were their words actually uttered by a man thousands of years ago? Pehaps. If a man did speak their words, what was his inspiration? Did his mind create the words of Manwë as he listened to the wind? Or did the wind speak to him? Or “speak” to his soul? And if the Valar did exist in some “real” form, would their communication with this man take any different form? Hmm…

I have never felt the touch of god, but I have come close. I was very young, and the Sunday school meant to round out my education was having an effect. Not exactly visions of angels, but a bit more like Pink Floyd with my hands feeling like two balloons. I thought my way out of that pretty quickly, but I never forgot the experience.

When you find ideas that can make you feel the same way, except with mankind more like the shepherd and less like the lamb, it is thrilling to the core. I can close my eyes, concentrate, and feel the truth just as you can feel the presence of someone standing next to you. Maybe it’s conceit and illusion, but I haven’t had a lifetime to ponder it yet. I’ll get there in my own time.

This is the joy in taking the concept to its logical conclusion. My brain has been chewing on it for many years now, and I still take pride in my own imaginings as well as feel a pride in my own people that I never felt before that day. When you allow myth to touch your heart, the walls between us and history melt away. Somewhere behind the wall of time’s mist, the roots of who we are as people actually lived and breathed. I know because I’ve walked with them.

I could prattle on, but I’ll save the deep philosophy for another day. What is reality? Is the world round? Are we all living in an elaborate Truman Show? Are you happy? Are you fooling yourself into thinking you are happy? Even if you are fooling yourself, does that invalidate the feeling? It’s a big world out there, with plenty of room for all ideas. I’m constantly moving things around trying to make room for them in my head.

I understand that to many of you these are either alien concepts or thought of as “the love of Tolkien that dare not speak its name”, but open your mind. Off the cuff remarks of incredulity serve only to weary the wise, and it brings you no closer to understanding. Dwarven care is needed in chipping away at these ideas.

quote:
We would tend these glades of flowering stone, not quarry them. With cautious skill, tap by tap – a small chip of rock and no more, perhaps, in a whole anxious day – so we could work, and as the years went by, we should open up new ways, and display far chambers that are still dark, glimpsed only as a void beyond fissures in the rock. And lights, Legolas! We should make lights, such lamps as once shone in Khazad-dûm; and when we wished we would drive away the night that has lain there since the hills were made; and when we desired rest, we would let the night return.

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Hopafoot
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Peter has spoken. Revoco.

[ 12-12-2009, 04:36 PM: Message edited by: Hopafoot ]

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Hopafoot
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I've read WGW's post about six times, and I begin to understand it. My response is formulating, for what it's worth... honestly i don't value my opinions that much (though it may seem otherwise). I've had this idea of Tolkien-as-true-history for about a year, and I've told a few friends. It's like it was burning in my mind and I wanted to air it publicly at least once. Minas Tirith seemed to be the most serious Tolkien site, hence my registration and posts... It should be kept in mind that I have read only 2 volumes of HoMe; much of Tolkien I have yet to read! meatier response forthcoming...
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Hopafoot
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When I first watched the very excellent film Fellowship of the Ring and heard,

"Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it,"

I got chills.

To go with WGW's approach, this thread has been a consideration of the "absurd" hypothesis, "Tolkien's histories are true histories." Honestly, when I put up the first post of this thread, I was genuinely inclined to believe the hypothesis TRUE. Now I find that I would bet on the opposite: that is to say, I am inclined now to think the hypothesis FALSE. Do I know this for sure? No. It might be true, for all I know. (In the same way, I am inclined to accept the theory of evolution, but I will definitely listen to creationists with interest and *respect*.) So the consideration of the absurd hypothesis has been of value at least to me.

Now let me address the second part of WGW's post, in an obscure way.

The aforementioned hypothesis is both absurd and unnecessary: we do not have to make a decision about it, to live our lives. There are other hypotheses which are necessary and not absurd, and these we must (in a sense) make a decision about. And due to our very weak capacity to reason about things high above us, we cannot make the decision just by consulting our own thoughts. And so we go about it another way:

"I can close my eyes, concentrate, and feel the truth just as you can feel the presence of someone standing next to you. Maybe it’s conceit and illusion, but I haven’t had a lifetime to ponder it yet. I’ll get there in my own time."

If you want to know whether something is true or false, ask the person who knows. Just like we consulted Tolkien's letters for the absurd and unnecessary hypothesis.

IMHO... and I have touched on subjects which it is almost arrogance for a person like me to speak of publicly.

I have a very one-track mind and have trouble maintaining thread-discourse (throughout the day, the thread is constantly on my mind, distracting me). Email is easier for me. I have to discipline myself only to check the threads on a certain day of the week, etc. Email is easier.

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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Truth can be a very ephemeral thing. If one is hit on the head by a rock, the truth is that rocks are hard. If one is drilling through stone with a diamond bit drill, the truth is that rocks are soft.

The definition of truth fluctuates with the individual doing the defining. It may be justified in terms of logic or religious belief.

The principle that “Tolkien’s histories are true” is the first step in a philosophy. Now take the second: Why is it true? Then the next: What is truth?

But be careful. You aren’t going to get anywhere by quoting Letters out of context. The principle that “Tolkien’s histories are true” can be refuted by almost any system of logic or any fundamental belief system. Look elsewhere. Look inward. Don’t let the true nature or value of Tolkien elude you.

And so on.

Did Socrates really say “Anytus and Meletus can kill me, but they cannot harm me”? Generations of people over thousands of years believed not only that Socrates said this, but that this in itself was a true statement: that being killed is not an injury to the real self, the self that matters, the self that each individual can control.

Did Gandalf really say “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends”?

We only have one source for Socrates’ saying, and that is Plato. We only have one source for the Legendarium, and that is Tolkien.

The words of Socrates, through Plato, have enriched the lives of millions of people. The words of Eru and Gandalf and the whole bloody lot, through Tolkien, have enriched the lives of millions of people. Some of those people even got something more out of them than a simple adventure tale about the Ring of Gyges or the Ring of Sauron.

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