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Author Topic: Tolkien's general style
Hamfast Gamgee
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I'm not sure this is the place to put this thread, but I'm not sure it belongs anywhere else. But the way in which Tolkien sets out his tales is quite unique in many ways or at least I don't see many other authors doing this. A lot of people have told me that they find him confusing but I never really have. This isn't because I am some literary genius, but rather that I think his tales are actually quite straighforward, more so than many other fantasy authors out there.

If one starts of reading the Hobbit, this is a fairly gentle introduction to his world. Doing this, the Lotr is much easier to understand. Yet other fantasy authors seem not to do this. How many other fantasy series seems to be 3 great big 600 page books in which they dive straight into some angst-ridden tale. That I find confusing! I don't think I ever really understood Donaldson, Philip Pulman etc but then I never really read the tales too closely towards the end to find out! In fact with other tales I have a little game. I pick up the start of a fantasy book in a bookstore. Now, if the story starts of nice and gently like at a party or in a pub I might be pesuaded to read it. If however it starts in the middle of a battle or a fight or something I put it straight down. It's amazing how many books I put straight down!

Even the Silmarillion which so many people tell me is complex, I think is quite straightforward if one has read Lotr, the appendixes etc. All right, the first time I read it I missed things and still now I find new things about it when I read it! Most of the tales their do work and in fact it is only around 300 pages long! That's about half as long as someone like Philip Pullman.

The other things that annoys me intensely about so many other authors is that while many obviously try or lets be charitable and say are influenced by Tolkien, they don't get it right. So many have noble Elves, tragic warriors, terrible Orcs, dragons, battles, sieges, dark lords etc, but they often foget to put in what is in my opinion one of the best things about Tolkien's works, the Hobbits!

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Sarah the Good Witch
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They're wanna-be's. I never saw the quality of "Narnia" or any of the other obvious copycats, which are obvious mockeries, which are more of a mish-mosh than anything complete and coherent. It takes a genius, a life, and a lifetime to approach Tolkien's status. Harry Potter is interesting in its own right, but the notion of wizards walking around in our modern world is a bit absurd, let alone posing a threat to it. Meanwhile history is replete with religious leaders, dictators and politicians liberating, destroying or conquering societies even today; and this hasn't gotten less complex or covert over time, but rather more. As for the hobbits, I think Tolkien said it all that Sam was the story's true hero, and not for his legendary feats of courage but his plain courage to live the normal challenges of everyday life, day in and day out. I think it says a lot, that he wasn't looking to do fulfill his mission in order become worthy enough to marry Rose Cotton (unlike the movie claimed), but simply because it was there, and needed to be done: that alone makes him more of a hero than Aragorn ever was, continually mooning over his dreams of Arwen with every spare moment, oblivious to Boromir's obsessing to get the Ring: not much of a leader, really!

[ 03-31-2009, 07:48 PM: Message edited by: Sarah the Good Witch ]

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Roll of Honor pi
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My guess on the "no hobbit" thing? Hobbits are © and ™ of JRRT.

As the story goes, he was grading papers during the “summer session” of 1928 when he came across a page which had been left blank. Tolkien was an inveterate doodler on any paper or margin that was available. Many of the earlier stories in his Middle-earth “mythologies” were first recorded this way, and The Hobbit was no exception.

On that blank page, Tolkien wrote the sentence, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” This has since become one of the most recognizable sentences in all of English literature.

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Sarah the Good Witch
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Sounds inspired by Lews Carrol: "Down the Hobbit-hole."
Well it's better than Stephen King giving Messianic powers to John Henry, but deciding to change the last name while spilling coffee on himself.
quote:
My guess on the "no hobbit" thing? Hobbits are © and ™ of JRRT.
Yes, Gary Gygax ran into that proprietary issue, and had to change over to the term "Halfling."

[ 03-31-2009, 08:53 PM: Message edited by: Sarah the Good Witch ]

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Tigranes
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quote:
but they often foget to put in what is in my opinion one of the best things about Tolkien's works, the Hobbits!
Oh, lots of fantasy books I've come across feature halflings. However, what Tolkien IMHO truly got going for him is his style. Unlike other authors, he doesn't use elves or other beautiful beings to express his sexual fantasies. Unlike other authors, he has a way of describing a world you actually want to live in. Unlike other authors, he sticks to a certain kind of realism, continuity, and coherence.

quote:
That's about half as long as someone like Philip Pullman
Yeah but unlike Philip Pullman, Tolkien isn't an idiot.
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Hamfast Gamgee
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Ha, ha, thank you, Tigranes, kind of sums up my feelings about Philip Pullman!
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Sarah the Good Witch
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Is "hobbit" a contraction of "homo sapiens rabbit"? That would explain it: I mean the living in the little people, the living in holes, the furry feet etc. I think Tolkien's style is best since it concerns the commoners as well as heroes and lords: as Tolkien wrote in Letter #131, "without the high and noble the simple and vulgar is utterly mean; and without the simple and ordinary the noble and heroic is meaningless."

[ 04-01-2009, 06:10 PM: Message edited by: Sarah the Good Witch ]

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Mithrennaith
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Sarah, you've been reading too much Russian!

(I.e. that Russian translator who told the Russian readers that hobbit came from homo rabbit.)

Rubbish. Hobbit means what Tolkien says it means (in App. F): holbytla, 'hole builder'.

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
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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Sarah the Good Witch
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Yeah, whatever he's gotta tell himself there. [] And Atlantë doesn't come from "Atlantis" either.
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Tigranes
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quote:
Rubbish. Hobbit means what Tolkien says it means (in App. F): holbytla, 'hole builder'.
Well, Tolkien may have constructed that later. Unless you find a proof that it definitely does or doesn't come from "homo rabbit", we have to contend ourselves with the possibility. The initial idea may well have come from that. А я не считаю что ВиКи говорит по-русски.
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Sarah the Good Witch
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I find it hard to believe, that Tolkien constructed the languages of Arda before he wrote first wrote the word "hobbit." (I didn't wanna be the first to use the phrase "homo rabbit," since people might think I was talking about Buggs Bunny). []
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Galin
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I am inclined to believe Tolkien himself on hobbit versus possible theories. JRRT said he could not exclude the possibility that buried childhood memories might rise long after, differently applied -- but for example, in his day a certain 'Habit' asserted that a friend claimed to have read an old fairy story (in a collection of such tales) called The Hobbit, though the creature was very frightening. Tolkien asked for more information, but by 1971 had never received any: '... and recent intensive research has not discovered the 'collection' JRRT letter 319

John Rateliff states that: 'In fact, the story which Habit's friend referred to was almost certainly 'The Hobyahs' which appear in Joseph Jacobs' More English Fairly Tales (1891). (...) And, just as Tolkien had suspected, the hobyahs of this tale are indeed goblins who in no way resemble his hobbits.' J. Rateliff, The History of The Hobbit Part II page 860

Anyway I don't recall Tolkien claiming that holbytla was the external source of 'hobbit' (he mentioned E. hole in letter 319). He used holbytla and hobbit to echo kûd-dûkan and kuduk -- meaning, as kuduk was likely a worn down form of kûd-dûkan, so the invention hobbit: 'provides a word that might well be a worn-down form of holbytla, if that name had occured in our own ancient language.' Appendix F

Noting '... if that name had occured'

[ 04-04-2009, 04:42 PM: Message edited by: Galin ]

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Mithrennaith
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Well, we can't tell what exactly was 'in the leaf-mold of [Tolkien's] mind' when he pulled hobbit out of it. But I think a fair chance is that not only 'hole' was there, but also 'hobgoblin', 'hobby' (the bird rather than the way to keep oneself occupied), the various Anglosaxon stems from which 'holbytla' is derived (it may not have existed in A-S, but it is a regular A-S word formation) and even 'homo (sapiens)', 'rabbit' and 'hobaty, hoberdy' (from the Denham tracts).

I would agree that the story-internal derivation came afterwards.

All I really wanted to point out is that it is rather presumptuous for someone like the Russian translator Vladimir Sergeevich Murav'ev to assert (point blank) that hobbit came from ho(mo) + (ra)bbit, (also) externally, in the face of Tolkien's denial (in Letter #319, and also, indirectly, #131 and #25). One can speculate, by all means, that 'homo' and 'rabbit' were nevertheless 'in the leaf-mold', but that is as far as one may go, without any definite source to counter Tolkien's denial.

e: А я не говорю по-русски, I got my knowledge from Mark Hooker.

[ 04-04-2009, 11:42 PM: Message edited by: Mithrennaith ]

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
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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Tigranes
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I'd find it hard to believe that "Hobbit" would be etymologically related to the Hobby (Falco subbuteo). Hobbits aren't exactly known to be elegant and beautiful; the Hobby (despite its funny name) OTOH is one of the most elegant species that ever graced this planet. It would be far more suited for Elves.


quote:
in the face of Tolkien's denial
A-ha. Now that's more like it. Why didn't you mention this before?


quote:
А я не говорю по-русски, I got my knowledge from Mark Hooker.

I was referring to Sarah anyway. []
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Sarah the Good Witch
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And he calls Numenor "Atlantë," an island that sinks, but makes no relation to the name "Atlantis." You believe that too?
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Artaresto
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FWIW, it's Atalantë
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Mithrennaith
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Please don't be facetious, Sarah.
quote:
The Men of the Three Houses were rewarded for their valour and faithful alliance, by being allowed to dwell 'western-most of all mortals', in the great 'Atlantis' isle of Númenóre. ..... The three main themes are thus The Delaying Elves that lingered in Middle-earth; Sauron's growth to a new Dark Lord, master and god of Men; and Numenor-Atlantis.

[L 131:19]

quote:
This was because they had been allies of the Elves in the First Age, and had for that reason been granted the Atlantis isle of Númenor.

[L 144:10]

quote:
Gone was the 'mythological' time when Valinor (or Valimar), the Land of the Valar (gods if you will) existed physically in the Uttermost West, or the Eldaic (Elvish) immortal Isle of Eressëa; or the Great Isle of Westernesse (Númenor-Atlantis).

[L 151:5]

quote:
The particular 'myth' which lies behind this tale, and the mood both of Men and Elves at this time, is the Downfall of Númenor: a special variety of the Atlantis tradition. That seems to me so fundamental to 'mythical history' – whether it has any kind of basis in real history, pace Saurat and others, is not relevant – that some version of it would have to come in.

[L 154:4]

quote:
So ended Númenor-Atlantis and all its glory.

[L 156:14]

quote:
I say this about the 'heart', for I have what some might call an Atlantis complex. Possibly inherited, though my parents died too young for me to know such things about them, and too young to transfer such things by words. Inherited from me (I suppose) by one only of my children,4 though I did not know that about my son until recently, and he did not know it about me. I mean the terrible recurrent dream (beginning with memory) of the Great Wave, towering up, and coming in ineluctably over the trees and green fields. (I bequeathed it to Faramir.) I don't think I have had it since I wrote the 'Downfall of Númenor' as the last of the legends of the First and Second Age.

[L 163:5]

quote:
Númenor, shortened form of Númenórë, is my own invention, compounded from numē-n, 'going down' (√ndū, nu), sunset. West, and nōrë 'land, country' = Westernesse. The legends of Númenórë are only in the background of The Lord of the Rings, though (of course) they were written first, and are only summarised in Appendix A. They are my own use for my own purposes of the Atlantis legend, but not based on special knowledge, but on a special personal concern with this tradition of the culture-bearing men of the Sea, which so profoundly affected the imagination of peoples of Europe with westward-shores.

[L 227:1]

quote:
My book was never finished, but some of it (the Númenórean-Atlantis theme) got into my trilogy eventually.

[L 252:1]

quote:
Another ingredient, not before mentioned, also came into operation in my need to provide a great function for Strider-Aragorn. What I might call my Atlantis-haunting. This legend or myth or dim memory of some ancient history has always troubled me. In sleep I had the dreadful dream of the ineluctable Wave, either coming out of the quiet sea, or coming in towering over the green inlands. It still occurs occasionally, though now exorcized by writing about it. It always ends by surrender, and I awake gasping out of deep water. I used to draw it or write bad poems about it. When C. S. Lewis and I tossed up, and he was to write on space-travel and I on time-travel, I began an abortive book of time-travel of which the end was to be the presence of my hero in the drowning of Atlantis. This was to be called Númenor, the Land in the West. The thread was to be the occurrence time and again in human families (like Durin among the Dwarves) of a father and son called by names that could be interpreted as Bliss-friend and Elf-friend. These no longer understood are found in the end to refer to the Atlantid-Númenórean situation and mean 'one loyal to the Valar, content with the bliss and prosperity within the limits prescribed' and 'one loyal to friendship with the High-elves'. It started with a father-son affinity between Edwin and Elwin of the present, and was supposed to go back into legendary time by way of an Eädwine and Ælfwine of circa A.D. 918, and Audoin and Alboin of Lombardic legend, and so the traditions of the North Sea concerning the coming of corn and culture heroes, ancestors of kingly lines, in boats (and their departure in funeral ships). One such Sheaf, or Shield Sheafing, can actually be made out as one of the remote ancestors of our present Queen. In my tale we were to come at last to Amandil and Elendil leaders of the loyal party in Númenor, when it fell under the domination of Sauron. Elendil 'Elf-friend' was the founder of the Exiled kingdoms in Arnor and Gondor. But I found my real interest was only in the upper end, the Akallabêth or Atalantie ('Downfall' in Númenórean and Quenya), so I brought all the stuff I had written on the originally unrelated legends of Númenor into relation with the main mythology.

[L 257:8]

quote:
Lewis took no pan in 'research into Númenor'. N. is my personal alteration of the Atlantis myth and/or tradition, and accommodation of it to my general mythology. Of all the mythical or 'archetypal' images this is the one most deeply seated in my imagination, and for many years I had a recurrent Atlantis dream : the stupendous and ineluctable wave advancing from the Sea or over the land, sometimes dark, sometimes green and sunlit.

[L 276:6]

quote:
An apology for seeming to speak out of vanity. Actually this arose in humility, my own and Lewis's. The humility of amateurs in a world of great writers. L. said to me one day: 'Tollers, there is too little of what we really like in stories. I am afraid we shall have to try and write some ourselves.' We agreed that he should try 'space-travel', and I should try 'time-travel'. His result is well known. My effort, after a few promising chapters, ran dry: it was too long a way round to what I really wanted to make, a new version of the Atlantis legend. The final scene survives as The Downfall of Númenor. This attracted Lewis greatly (as heard read), and reference to it occurs in several places in his works: e.g. 'The Last of the Wine', in his poems (Poems, 1964, p. 40). We neither of us expected much success as amateurs, and actually Lewis had some difficulty in getting Out of the Silent Planet published. And after all that has happened since, the most lasting pleasure and reward for both of us has been that we provided one another with stories to hear or read that we really liked – in large parts. Naturally neither of us liked all that we found in the other's fiction.

[L 294:32]

{All italics from the quoted edition of Letters, all bolding mine.}

If you want to disparage your discussion partners, you'd better have your facts right.

You know, this is not the way I would like to talk to people on a discussion board, but people have been hinting in this thread and elsewhere that you remind them of a banned member called WiKi, or in full The Witch-King of Angmar, who for some years could be found at the center of most of the disturbances on this board. Tuor, in another thread, has been saying so openly, finding similarities between your discussion habits and certain of WiKi's that he found less pleasant. And here again, WiKi also often preferred putting down his discussion partners to arguing his facts.

I do not think this is sufficient basis to go around calling people names. So I prefer to assume you're not the WiKi and I apologise if the comparison offends you. But I also want to give you the friendly advice to try not to emulate him too much. Otherwise people here might become unwilling to believe you're not him, and avoid discussions with you unless they want to have a row.

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
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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Hamfast Gamgee
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Mind, I wonder if someone today came to a publisher saying something like, 'I've got this blueprint for a fantasy story. It starts of with a party of little people with furry feet enjoying themselves for a chapter. These people are not that great fighters, others in the tale are. The tale fragments itself as we see different characters doing different things in the same day. Oh, and the main evil character doesn't make a single appearance in the entire tale!'

I can imagine the reply would be something like, 'No, no, no! We cut out the Hobbits or perhaps keep Sam as Aragorn's sidekick. We'll replace them with hundreds of pages of angst involving Aragorn. At the end, Aragorn can get the Ring and have a one to one fight with Saruon in Barad-dur single-handly saving Middle-earth. And we aren't going to have any of this starting of with a party nonsense. No, lets begin the tale in Helm's deep and take it from there, that's better something to grab the reader's attention quickly!'

[ 05-24-2009, 11:49 AM: Message edited by: Hamfast Gamgee ]

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Roll of Honor Varnafindë
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Isn't that what a film-maker would say, rather than a publisher?
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Mithrennaith
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Well, judging by what the guy presently in charge of publishing Tolkien in Dutch said recently (this was in a workshop for would be Fantasy-writers at a Fantasy-fair), this isn't so far from what a publisher would say. I'll run it by him sometime if I get the chance.

(B.t.w. this is a guy who loves Tolkien, who says he came to publishing because he wanted to write Fantasy like Tolkien and found out he wouldn't get anywhere with that.)

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Hamfast Gamgee
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Happened again a couple of days ago. I went into a bookshop, saw a great big 600 page fantasy novel, written by a quite respected Author, so I thought I would have a little look, though I must say my hopes weren't high. Read the first page. All about some demon fighting some god or other. Why do no fantasy author's believe in starting slowly then building up the tension rather than starting straight in the middle of the tale? Anyway, half a page in I had lost any interest I might have had and with a sigh put the book down. That's 600 pages of complicated angst I won't be reading!
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Roll of Honor Wandering Tuor
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Here is a good (short) article on the role of archaic words and syntax in Tolkien's sub-creation.
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Cernunnos
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On language in fantasy literature, I cannot recommend too highly Ursula le Guin's essay 'From Elfland to Poughkeepsie'. An insightful (and hilarious) analysis of what lets most attempts at the genre down, from another master stylist.

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
Whereas the light perceives the very heart of the darkness, its own secret has not been discovered.

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