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Minas Tirith Forums » History of Middle-earth » Tolkien's histories are true (Page 2)
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White Gold Wielder
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Thorin:

As usual, you cut to the heart of the matter with (seemingly) little effort. I can always count on you to be at least as thoughtful with your posts as I try to be, and I appreciate it.

There is a lot more that could be said about this topic, but it will have to wait until more people chime in. It's the kind of thing that can be as personally consuming as you wish it to be. For me, that is not very much anymore. Still, it's something I keep close for inspiration, like a phial in my jacket pocket.

From: Chicago | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Aerel
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I think there's a lot to be said for Thorin's comments on the ephemeral nature of truth.

I'm a little surprised that this point has yet to be discussed much for, as I understood it (from possibly the foreword to the Lord of the Rings or some similar source), Tolkien was somewhat unimpressed with the cultural history (by which I mean the legends, tales, and so forth) of England. As a scholar of legend, he was speaking from a point of authority[1], and so with this motivation he began to write the Legendarium.

From this starting point, we can see that the depth and imagining (as Hopafoot put it: It is so intricate, so detailed, so complex and involved, that I could not believe it was "made up," so to speak) follows naturally from a desire to create an alternate history. By creating such an alternative, he sought to enrich the culture of England.

Consider, for example, the Arthurian legend. There are a great many works of fiction based upon this legend and we can ask many of the same questions that WGW asked of Féanor:
quote:
Did he exist? Or was he an amalgam of people and their own personal tales?
T.H. White's version of the story (as referenced in the text) draws a great deal from the Mallory, but further refines the story, focussing on new aspects, adding in events and conversations. We know (insofar as we can know these things) that the real King Arthur's (whatever that may mean) childhood was not overseen by a wizard named Merlin who referenced bowler hats and fishing flies and complained about the lack of "by our lady electricity and running water". White plays the translation trick a few times, seeming to acknowledge that he is merely phrasing things in a modern styling so as to not bewilder his audience. But this work nevertheless adds to the Arthurian canon. It is not real, but it adds to something that potentially was.

In a similar way, Tolkien's work adds to the canon of English history. Of course it takes in aspects of Anglo-Saxon tales, because our cultural make-up is partly rooted there. People who consider Tolkien's work to be theft or plagiarism are, in my mind, missing almost the entire point. The "elfshot" that farmers used to find in fields, the names like Elfreda and Aelfwine (all Saxon names wiped out by the Norman conquest), all this points to a shared cultural past where elves were considered real. And taking these to be historic truths there is no particular reason why we should consider Tolkien's Legendarium to be any different.


[1] Note that I do not condone this view, merely present it as a strong motivator.

[ 05-13-2010, 12:23 PM: Message edited by: Aerel ]

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Hamfast Gamgee
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I think it is true that a lot of us would like to think that Tolkien's ideas are true that he was just the chroniclier and all of these events happened, it is a nice thought, but I don't think, or at least I hope that people don't take this thought seriously! And naturally, his tales were based upon others. The maps of middle-earth do look a bit like Scandinavia as had been pointed out to me. And of course, tales like Beorwulf were an inspiration to him. One thing does puzzle me that someone that was as much of a Catholic as Tolkien was as people keep telling me and I have no reason to disbelieve this but he did write a tale with quite a few ideas contrary to Catholicisum one might argue!

[ 05-13-2010, 10:24 PM: Message edited by: Hamfast Gamgee ]

From: Bagshot Row, Hobbiton, The Shire! | Registered: Sep 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
White Gold Wielder
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At its root, it a simple, quiet matter (like most ideas). Passive and logical as math on paper, but spoken and controversial.

Is it knee-jerk reaction and ignorance that drives the weird vitriol from some critics on this point, or is there something else at work having to do with the vertigo of shaking personal beliefs?

From: Chicago | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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