Roose Boltons Pet Leech

Tolkien 2.0

359 posts in this topic

Continuing the previous thread

On the subject of Númenorean imperialism, here's a quote from Tal-Elmar, the unique and unfinished story in HOME XII, which is written from the point of view of the Men of Middle-earth. Here's what one "Wild Man" has to say about the Men of the Sea.

 And then they will send forth smaller boats laden with goods, and strange things both beautiful and useful such as our folk covet. These they will sell to us for small price, or give as gifts, feigning friendship, and pity for our need; and they will dwell a while, and spy out the land and the numbers of the folk, and then go. And if they do not return, men should be thankful. For if they come again it is in other guise. In greater numbers they come then: two ships or more together, stuffed with men and not goods, and every one of the accursed ships hath black evil wings. For that is the Ship of the Dark, and in it they bear away evil booty, captives packed like beasts, the fairest women and children, or young men unblemished, and that is their end.

The dark side of colonialism in action, well before Sauron turned up.

I have also seen Tal-Elmar suggested as an origin story for the Witch-King. We have no idea of knowing for certain, but it is an interesting idea.

Edited by Roose Boltons Pet Leech

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One could make the case that the "eternal" enmity of the Haradrim and Easterlings towards Gondor/Numenorean culture is the is the result of a very deep-lying sociocultural PTSD, resulting from the experience of Numenorean imperialism. 

To apply a real world example: the anxiety of Eastern European states towards Russia due to the fact that the ruling elite in Russia till this day glorify the imperial days, from Peter the Great to the Soviet Union (less applicable examples: France, UK, Spain due to their relatively low power projection capabilities towards their former colonies).

Yes, Sauron manipulated them but he walked on already fertile grounds. 

Yes, I also now that in the case of Umbar (and presumably other Haradrim realms), Black Numenoreans and later the losers of the Gondorian Civil War constituted the aristocracy, at least partly. But IIRC according to Tolkien, they soon became culturally integrated. 

 

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It's a good thing to remember that even for white male Englishmen with some upper crust tendencies, imperialism had it's big detractors.

Tolkien and Wells are just two of the most famous.

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Tolkien was a bit odd, even for anti-imperialists. He didn't even like the idea of the United Kingdom (preferring England - and almost certainly, would have identified as West Mercian if given the opportunity).

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On ‎12‎/‎28‎/‎2016 at 0:08 PM, Arakan said:

One could make the case that the "eternal" enmity of the Haradrim and Easterlings towards Gondor/Numenorean culture is the is the result of a very deep-lying sociocultural PTSD, resulting from the experience of Numenorean imperialism. 

To apply a real world example: the anxiety of Eastern European states towards Russia due to the fact that the ruling elite in Russia till this day glorify the imperial days, from Peter the Great to the Soviet Union (less applicable examples: France, UK, Spain due to their relatively low power projection capabilities towards their former colonies).

Yes, Sauron manipulated them but he walked on already fertile grounds. 

Yes, I also now that in the case of Umbar (and presumably other Haradrim realms), Black Numenoreans and later the losers of the Gondorian Civil War constituted the aristocracy, at least partly. But IIRC according to Tolkien, they soon became culturally integrated. 

 

The Russian analogy works especially well, because the Russians in turn fear invasion from the West, and view the establishment of a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe as a means of protecting their borders.

Both Gondor and the Harad had reasons to fear each other.

Having re-read Appendix A, blame for warfare between Gondor and the Harad seems to have been pretty much evenly divided.  Sometimes Gondor was the aggressor, sometimes the Haradrim were.

Edited by SeanF

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33 minutes ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Something a bit different and speculative: a look at Cosmic Horror in Tolkien:

https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/cosmic-horror-and-tolkien/

One possible influence on both Tolkien and Lovecraft was MR James.  Like Tolkien, he was a Christian (albeit, Anglican rather than Catholic.)

But, James' world is a pitiless one in which awful things happen to people who simply happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or who are curious about things that are really best left alone.

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Interesting point - though James plays the artefact of doom card in practically every story, while Tolkien only does it once, in a way that likely owes more to Germanic myth and legend than any modern author.

Tolkien and James definitely share a thing for spiders though.

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25 minutes ago, Werthead said:

Excellent article! 

The only thing I'd add is that Tolkien's invented languages came before any actual stories. His invented languages were basically a study in what he was exposed to - Latin, then Gothic, then finally his two great linguistic loves, Finnish and Welsh. He then decided that "real" languages had stories to go with them, which meant he decided he needed to create stories to go with the languages.

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23 minutes ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Text

Why Finnish and Welsh?

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2 minutes ago, The Grey Wolf said:

Why Finnish and Welsh?

He liked the flavour of the languages. He delivered a famous lecture on "English and Welsh", where he discusses it in more detail - http://dohiyimir.typepad.com/eng_wel_tolkien.pdf

He made an honest attempt to learn Finnish - enough to inspire Quenya - but in the end he said that he only got as far as plodding through the original Kalevala with the help of a dictionary.

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I studied in Finland for my Junior year in college. While I'm not great with languages, Finnish stumped me beyond measure. I felt like just another idiot American until a German gal, who spoke most of the languages on the European continent, threw in the towel after three months of rigorous study.

The only foreigner who actually caught on was an American who arrived in January, declaring he'd be able to learn it. We all scoffed and rolled our eyes, being 4-month veterans. Sure enough, a month later, he was engaging Finns in philosophical discussions --in Finnish.

So. While not impossible to learn, Finnish can challenge even people who excel in languages. Which means, I had no chance in hell.

 

ETA: Speaking of Tolkien and Finnish, I got a copy of Tolkien's Story of Kullervo for Christmas. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I did dust of my copy of the Kalevala. I figured I'd re-read the original (translation) before reading Tolkien's version.

Edited by Myrddin

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8 hours ago, Myrddin said:

So. While not impossible to learn, Finnish can challenge even people who excel in languages. Which means, I had no chance in hell.

The thing about Finnish is that it is a lot like mathematics - a lot of rules, but it is incredibly logical in the application of those rules. It's also one of those cases where knowing lots of other languages wouldn't help, since Finnish (as a non-Indo European language) is alien to most languages in Europe. In Tolkien's case, his only ability to learn Finnish came from a Finnish grammar and Kalevala - the former likely less user-friendly than modern materials, and the latter containing some seriously antiquated words and constructions. Imagine trying to learn English, when your only source material is Shakespeare.

(Personally, I find Finnish less nasty than German, but that's because it completely lacks grammatical gender, and I hate grammatical gender).

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I am wildly speculating but maybe there are two kinds of being gifted for languages. One is very general, so the person would pick up/learn Finnish, Hungarian, Navajo or Chinese or whatever comparably quickly. The other might be more a gift of recognizing commonalities, so someone like Tolkien who knew half a dozen of Indoeuropean languages as a teenager was quick to pick up more Germanic ones like Gothic, Old Norse,  Anglo-Saxon etc. but Finnish was hard, even for him because it is so different.

I have no clue about Finnish but I am alwas somewhat wary about claims that some languages were so "logical". Latin and even French (a language where the same word is used for "nobody" and "person"...) are supposed to be very logical but there are tons of exceptions and stuff one simply has to memorize and that does not seem to be "logical" at all when one has internalized the "logic" of another language. A favorite example of mine is negation. In German we learn that two negations cancel each other, like in formal logic: ~(~A) = A. But this is simply wrong in many other European languages where double negation is frequent and does not cancel out but is either obligatory or can serve to reinforce the negation.

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On ‎1‎/‎3‎/‎2017 at 0:12 PM, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Interesting point - though James plays the artefact of doom card in practically every story, while Tolkien only does it once, in a way that likely owes more to Germanic myth and legend than any modern author.

Tolkien and James definitely share a thing for spiders though.

Does Old Man Willow count as cosmic horror?  He's very unpleasant, but clearly working to his own agenda, rather than Sauron's (indeed, would probably detest Sauron ).  Or is the whole point of cosmic horror that these entities aren't actually malicious towards humans, simply utterly indifferent, in the way that we wouldn't care if we were destroying an ant's nest when we build a house?

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8 hours ago, SeanF said:

Does Old Man Willow count as cosmic horror?  He's very unpleasant, but clearly working to his own agenda, rather than Sauron's (indeed, would probably detest Sauron ).  Or is the whole point of cosmic horror that these entities aren't actually malicious towards humans, simply utterly indifferent, in the way that we wouldn't care if we were destroying an ant's nest when we build a house?

I don't think of M.R. James as a conveyor of cosmic horror, and Old Man Willow fits in to a James piece very nicely.

The artifacts of doom in a James story are very specific in their being and application.  If you become a bishop of the haunted church, the statues will be creepy.  If you purchased the haunted book, the hairy man will be attracted to you.  If you buy the haunted picture, you will be able to see a terrible historical deed.  If you find the Roman coin, you will end up in a haunted well.  If you drink from the five jars, you will be able to talk to the owls.  If you sleep in the bedroom with the haunted ash tree at the window, spiders will bite you.  If you go stay with your weird cousin, he will try to cut your heart out because reasons.  If you try to find the Hebrew will, a smelly man will show up.  If you read books about alchemy, your name will appear in lights.  If you inherit a haunted mansion, best not explore the spooky garden maze at night.  Etc.

These aren't cosmic horror, they are more like the Home Depot of Horror, selling you the specific tools you need to do the job.  I think Tolkien uses the same sort of Implement of Doom in his stories, with Swords of Destiny that will either be re-made or slay an important bad guy; and Cursed Rings that will control all or slay the important bad guy (and leads to a ride on some eagles); and the Crystal Ball of Despondency that makes people depressed when they look into it and leads to the self-slaying of an important bad guy; and the Jewel of Stupid Decisions that makes people greedy and leads to the slaying of an important bad dragon (and a ride on some eagles); and the Diamond of Horny Mortals that makes people wrestle with werewolves and leads to the slaying of an important bad guy (and a ride on some eagles).

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