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Ser Scot A Ellison

Why Tolkien is not coddling his readers, why Tolkien is awesome

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LV,

If Aragorn behaves as a "King should" and that's the only way Tolkien will portray a King why do we have Feanor, Ar-Pharazon, Thror, and other terrible kings within Tolkien's Secondary World?

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36 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

I

Other thing where I find the religious and the fantasy sphere are sort of at odds with each other:

In our real world we usually don't meet the Devil Incarnate in person. In Middle-earth this happens a lot (both with Morgoth and Sauron). In Christianity you have to choose between the temptations of the devil and god's plan for you and all mankind. If there is sort of a balance between these two (as is in reality where neither god/angels nor the devil/demons are likely to show up) it makes sense that people have sort of a free will and the chance to get confused and not immediately see what's right and wrong.

However, in Tolkien's work people routinely meet the devil who is also some sort of immortal demigod in the neighborhood. The mortals encountering such forces are very likely to be impressed and aghast by this amount of supernatural real power. The idea that these people have any other choice but to worship such beings makes little sense.

The good guys (Eru, the Valar, etc.) don't show their faces as prominently as the evil guys, essentially rigging the game in favor of the evil guys.

The other aspect of this is that in a world where the devil actually rules the land as an immortal king the whole theological aspect of the devil wanting set himself up as a deity, leading elves and men away from Eru, etc. makes little sense. I mean, what's Melkor's goal in all that? He does know for a certainty that Eru exists. Why would he want to convince the elves and men of something else? Not to mention that Eru himself could easily enough expose Melkor's lies by showing himself to the people he tries to corrupt.

The fact that neither god, Jesus, angels, and demons show up in the real world is a core problem of Christianity. But the whole paradox is actually strengthened and reinforced in Tolkien's world where we know god, angels, and demons exist but only the demons feature very prominently while the angels mostly stay out of the game and god himself essentially does nothing but 'work in mysterious ways'.

Very much so.  I've always been intrigued why a devout Christian would write a story like the Children of Hurin.  Hurin is cursed by an archangel, and his entire family is destroyed, without Eru or the Valar lifting a finger to help them.  The tale is completely hopeless, from a theological point of view.

Now, it is also a great story, one of the best that Tolkien wrote.  But, it's not consistent at all with his world outlook.  It's much more like one of the stories from the Ancient World, in which the gods (if they exist at all) are quite capricious in their dealings with mortals, or else, completely indifferent to them.

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7 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

LV,

If Aragorn behaves as a "King should" and that's the only way Tolkien will portray a King why do we have Feanor, Ar-Pharazon, Thror, and other terrible kings within Tolkien's Secondary World?

It is the only way the king 'The Return of the King' would be presented. Aragorn is consciously presented as some sort of Arthurian king. He simply is good and the rightful king. His deeds show why he is king, they don't make him king. This is a ideal monarchistic society. Aside from Denethor there is nobody who would dare challenge that Aragorn should be king nor is there any indication that anybody else could become king. The concept that only a direct scion of the Line of Elros could rule Gondor and Arnor is never questioned by anyone. Not even by Denethor. And that's the mythological/unrealistic element in this story. Any realistic society not living the monarchistic ideal would have a new royal dynasty in power a few years (or immediately) after the last king died. The Stewards would have become Kings of Gondor centuries ago, and nobody would have had any issue with that.

There are fallible kings in the world, of course. But then, Pharazôn actually is a usurper, is he not? His wife actually should have ruled in his stead.

This history of Númenor also show were the limits of royal power lie. If you blaspheme you will be cast down by god. Heretics cannot rule. And what's Ar-Pharazôn's greatest (and unforgivable) crime? Worshiping Melkor-Satan and attacking god's rightful representatives in this world. Manwe's position as the Elder King is supreme and untouchable because he rules in Eru's name with his blessing - just as the Númenórean kings ruled in Eru's name and with his blessing until they turned their backs on him.

Feanor is a fallen character who led his people astray. And whether the Elves actually can have a succession of rightful kings can be matter of debate considering that the dead eventually leave Mandos. If you shouldn't/mustn't take a second spouse after the destruction of your wife/husband's body the son or brother of king most likely is supposed to return the burden of the kingship he has shouldered while you were dead to you upon your return from Mandos.

That just never happens in Middle-earth because the restored elves stay in Aman. And the only Elven king who died in Aman was Finwe, who never left Mandos because Míriel eventually wanted to go and there could not possibly be a living bigamist in the Blessed Realm.

26 minutes ago, SeanF said:

Very much so.  I've always been intrigued why a devout Christian would write a story like the Children of Hurin.  Hurin is cursed by an archangel, and his entire family is destroyed, without Eru or the Valar lifting a finger to help them.  The tale is completely hopeless, from a theological point of view.

Oh, I think that story clearly is also deeply influenced by Tolkien's other interests. The man wasn't just your average Catholic he was very much interested in this Germanic/Norse mythology setting and his whole spin on that is the reconcile the Germanic sphere and its heroics and values (as he saw or reconstructed them) and his branch of Christianity.

If you read the origin of those stories in the Lost Tales they are both sillier and more light-hearted as well as much more ingrained in the myth setting than the whole Christianity thing.

The fact that the stories themselves never changed all that much insofar as the general plot is concerned (whereas the metaphysics, setting, and tone changed dramatically) helps to explain this discrepancy. But Tolkien even got around that by simply attributing the Narn to a human author who wasn't affected all that much by Elvish philosophy and theology.

And if we keep in mind that Tolkien's myths basically take place in a pre-Christian era (sort of between Adam and Eve and Noah's flood, basically) it is not so surprising from his Catholic point of view that he would see the world of this day and age as fallen and more or less irredeemably marred (until such time as Jesus comes along and sacrifices himself for our sins).

All the divine interventions from the side of the Valar and Maiar don't really repair everything, after all.

But the problem is, of course, that there is no reason given in the story why the hell Túrin and Nienor (or the average Easterling born in the shadow of Barad-dûr) deserves the crappy life they get. Those are the instances where Tolkien's religious may have created blind spots in his minds because as devout Christian you sort of learn to live with those weirdo contradictions just as you make you peace with the Trinity and accept it as a 'mystery'. You don't address them or try to find solutions for them. Perhaps he even believed in the whole Christian 'suffering ennobles/educates people' routine (in my opinion a horrible doctrine). After all, Túrin gets a rather special reward for his ordeal in the earlier versions of the story, being allowed to live in Valinor as an adopted (?) Vala who will eventually make kill Morgoth with his magic sword during the Dagor Dagorath.

26 minutes ago, SeanF said:

Now, it is also a great story, one of the best that Tolkien wrote.  But, it's not consistent at all with his world outlook.  It's much more like one of the stories from the Ancient World, in which the gods (if they exist at all) are quite capricious in their dealings with mortals, or else, completely indifferent to them.

In the 'Myth's Transformed' essay Tolkien provides the Valar with reasons as to why they didn't help the Children in Beleriand (until they did) but that whole motivation never made any sense. The Sindar, Nandor, Avari, Dwarves, and Men do not deserve to be caught up in the punishment of the Noldor. What about the promise of the Valar that the Sindar and Nandor can travel to Aman? Not to mention that collective punishment is a stupid concept for divine creatures who have some sense (it is a core trait in the Bible and crucial to Christianity in the guise of original sin but still actually a stupid concept). Gil-galad has nothing to do with the stuff Feanor and his sons and a bunch of other Noldor did centuries ago, right?

If read the passages where Tolkien is talking about the plot points of his mythology the whole Silmaril and Kin-slaying thing always is described as the fall of the Noldor/Elves. That's the concept behind it. He never seems to think whether the concept of such a fall the way he depicted it makes a lot of sense. Such a fall entails divine punishment, so the Noldor are punished. In his mind this clearly was just punishment. It is only much later that he begins to think that the Valar really look very petty and cruel (not to mention indifferent) by simply ignoring Morgoth and the suffering of the Children of Ilúvatar.

And while I very much like the story of Eärendil (despite or because we never got it in detail) the very idea that the Valar would need some kind of messenger to know what's going on is ridiculous. God and his angels shouldn't need my subjective plea to realize that there is an objective evil (Melkor-Morgoth and his minions) in the world and that it is their responsibility to deal with him. The Children of Ilúvatar can't do that.

Back in the Lost Tales the Valar were much more fallible deities, with their own emotions, ambitions, and petty squabbles. But the more that concept eroded and the more angelic the Valar became the less sense the whole story makes, if you think about it.

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19 hours ago, Darth Richard II said:

I talked with a born again Christian a lot about Toikien who was convinced LotR was filled with messages about the evils of the catholic church. Doesn't make it so.

It's funny what people read into Tolkien.

One can find plenty of evangelical Christians who denounce his works for promoting paganism and witchcraft.

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29 minutes ago, SeanF said:

It's funny what people read into Tolkien.

One can find plenty of evangelical Christians who denounce his works for promoting paganism and witchcraft.

I think that's part of the work being very open on a number of issues. The early medieval fantasy setting removes it very far from easily identifiable social or political issues. You have to do a lot of thinking to try to make it fit your preconceptions, and considering the size of the story that's not so easy if you (sort of) want to do it justice.

But there are things that are pretty evident to the (modern) reader who is concerned by them and wants to read (fantasy) books that actually do feature members of her gender in active roles (or at all, if you take the Hobbit as an example).

I'm pretty sure Tolkien isn't exactly all that popular among young feminist women (and men). And there is a reason for that. That doesn't mean we should throw him out of the window or no longer read him. There are other interesting aspects to the books. And to put Tolkien's works into perspective, they age very well if you compare them to other contemporary literature (I mean, hell, Isaac Asimov may have been a genius but his female characters are so clichéd misogynistic stereotypes that you visibly cringe while reading the stories)

By the way, how do you guys deal with Tolkien's anti-modernism? Can you relate to that on a more modern level (you won't be opposed to trains in the countryside, I imagine)? Have you this sense that everything is going to hell and in the Elder Days everything was much better?

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22 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

I think that's part of the work being very open on a number of issues. The early medieval fantasy setting removes it very far from easily identifiable social or political issues. You have to do a lot of thinking to try to make it fit your preconceptions, and considering the size of the story that's not so easy if you (sort of) want to do it justice.

But there are things that are pretty evident to the (modern) reader who is concerned by them and wants to read (fantasy) books that actually do feature members of her gender in active roles (or at all, if you take the Hobbit as an example).

I'm pretty sure Tolkien isn't exactly all that popular among young feminist women (and men). And there is a reason for that. That doesn't mean we should throw him out of the window or no longer read him. There are other interesting aspects to the books. And to put Tolkien's works into perspective, they age very well if you compare them to other contemporary literature (I mean, hell, Isaac Asimov may have been a genius but his female characters are so clichéd misogynistic stereotypes that you visibly cringe while reading the stories)

By the way, how do you guys deal with Tolkien's anti-modernism? Can you relate to that on a more modern level (you won't be opposed to trains in the countryside, I imagine)? Have you this sense that everything is going to hell and in the Elder Days everything was much better?

There are certainly feminists who contribute to this site who enjoy Tolkien.

As to the anti-modernism (which I think is more nuanced than you imply for the reasons I've given upthread) no, it really doesn't bother me. When we read about the old days in Middle Earth, it's pretty clear that they weren't perfect at all.

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29 minutes ago, SeanF said:

There are certainly feminists who contribute to this site who enjoy Tolkien.

Sure, that was no generalizing statement. If you happen to like fantasy literature and stuff you simply like that stuff. But if you have a pretty clear picture how your gender should be portrayed (and you aren't all that much into fantasy literature) then Tolkien most likely isn't something you will have been fun with.

29 minutes ago, SeanF said:

As to the anti-modernism (which I think is more nuanced than you imply for the reasons I've given upthread) no, it really doesn't bother me. When we read about the old days in Middle Earth, it's pretty clear that they weren't perfect at all.

Oh, I didn't mean in the text of the works, I meant more Tolkien like a person, how he presents himself in interviews, letters, and so forth. For instance, the way he compares World War II and the like with Orcism, using his fictional creations as a means to explain reality (to himself).

In the works the past wasn't always that great but most times it was. The Blessed Realm was great before the Unchaining of Melkor. Doriath was a great place before Morgoth came back to Middle-earth, Eregion was cozy enough before Annatar came. Númenor was a great place, too, before its people fell, and so on.

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3 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

Sure, that was no generalizing statement. If you happen to like fantasy literature and stuff you simply like that stuff. But if you have a pretty clear picture how your gender should be portrayed (and you aren't all that much into fantasy literature) then Tolkien most likely isn't something you will have been fun with.

Oh, I didn't mean in the text of the works, I meant more Tolkien like a person, how he presents himself in interviews, letters, and so forth. For instance, the way he compares World War II and the like with Orcism, using his fictional creations as a means to explain reality (to himself).

In the works the past wasn't always that great but most times it was. The Blessed Realm was great before the Unchaining of Melkor. Doriath was a great place before Morgoth came back to Middle-earth, Eregion was cozy enough before Annatar came. Númenor was a great place, too, before its people fell, and so on.

In general I find Tolkien very interesting in his letters.  In some ways he was ahead of his time (eg his environmentalism, or hostility to apartheid) , in others a very great distance behind it (espousing a type of Catholicism that was old-fashioned even then).  It's plain that he regarded the Medieval Catholic Church as a fine institution, and the English Protestant Reformation as a disaster.

A novel I'd recommend as an insight into that type of Catholic outlook is a recently published supernatural thriller called The Loney, by Andrew Hurley, which features a group of fundamentalist Catholics in the 1970's who would have shared much of Tolkien's world outlook.

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Who was it who said, "There are people who believe characters represent an author's view on the world. These people are morons?"

While not the case here, I think it's important to bring up a fact as an author that everyone here is trying to determine Tolkien's views from the way his stories work without pausing to think it's very possible the reason many of Tolkien's stories turned out the way they did is because John Ronald Reul thought it would be cool.

I mean people are going to fairly great lengths to talk about the symbolism of Catholicism and anti-modernism and monarchy versus the fact I'm sure there's plenty of times where the Professor is telling the story the way he is because he thinks it'll be awesome. Tolkien himself said he's never been comfortable with the way he presented orcs because of the fact they're one-dimensional killing machines. However, Tolkien wanted terrifying enemies for his heroes to be able to cut through so he created the original Mook RaceTM.

Tolkien was a deeply conservative Catholic and progressive on racial and environmental issues for a man of his time but he was also a man who wanted to write a Neo-Norse Myth, which he did. Middle Earth doesn't necessarily represent some sort of idealized or crystallized manifesto for his socio-political views.

He's not Ayn Rand.

I think it's important to keep this in mind that sometimes a Balrog of Morgoth is just a Balrog of Morgoth, not some commentary on the fires of industry being the doom of dwarves. In particular, I think people are just dead wrong about their attempt to make Aragorn into apologia for monarchy. Aragorn is a perfect monarch but Isildur wasn't, Tolkien briefly considered making Ar-Pharazon into a person his wife voluntarily gave the crown, and kings are basically a mixture of bad as well as good.

I'm also weirded out how little headspace The Hobbit occupies in these discussions, as if the book flat out doesn't exist. I mentioned this in jest earlier but seriously, the book rips to shreds a lot of the ideas floating here. Bard may be an awesome King but he's as willing to rob the Dwarves as anyone, the Elf King is an ass, and Thorin is a pompous buffoon until his dying day. There's also the fact the Shire, which is a modern-to-the-Medieval World anachronistic rural England is clearly a much-much nicer place. In effect, parodying the idea of "The Good Old Days."

But that's because I think The Hobbit very effectively parodies a lot of what people think LOTR is about. Indeed, I half-suspect since the Silmarillion is what Tolkien REALLY wanted to publish that The Hobbit was Tolkien parodying HIMSELF.

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3 hours ago, SeanF said:

In general I find Tolkien very interesting in his letters.  In some ways he was ahead of his time (eg his environmentalism, or hostility to apartheid) , in others a very great distance behind it (espousing a type of Catholicism that was old-fashioned even then).  It's plain that he regarded the Medieval Catholic Church as a fine institution, and the English Protestant Reformation as a disaster.

Well, he certainly was an educated and refined person. He wasn't stupid. And I'd not hold the whole English Reformation thing against him. The idea that any (conservative/pious) Catholic thinks Henry VIII did the right thing is ridiculous. There is a reason why Thomas More is a saint of the Catholic Church.

3 hours ago, SeanF said:

A novel I'd recommend as an insight into that type of Catholic outlook is a recently published supernatural thriller called The Loney, by Andrew Hurley, which features a group of fundamentalist Catholics in the 1970's who would have shared much of Tolkien's world outlook.

Well, I read a little bit about that book but I guess I don't like the story all that much. Tolkien would basically fall in the category of the Society of St. Pius X today, at least insofar as the outside is concerned. He wouldn't be as antisemitic as those most of those guys are but he did want to part with the Latin liturgy and most likely preferred the Church as he knew it, not what it is today. That is mostly taste, though.

46 minutes ago, C.T. Phipps said:

While not the case here, I think it's important to bring up a fact as an author that everyone here is trying to determine Tolkien's views from the way his stories work without pausing to think it's very possible the reason many of Tolkien's stories turned out the way they did is because John Ronald Reul thought it would be cool.

Sure, and a lot of the stuff is cool. The interesting things there are the details, I think, not so much the outlines. Take the Hobbits introducing themselves in Bree. Our little esquires Merry and Pippin both get a 'Mr.' before they names but Sam doesn't. That Tolkien unconsciously expressing that there is a fundamental class difference between the aristocratic gentleman Hobbits and the working class Gamgees.

46 minutes ago, C.T. Phipps said:

I mean people are going to fairly great lengths to talk about the symbolism of Catholicism and anti-modernism and monarchy versus the fact I'm sure there's plenty of times where the Professor is telling the story the way he is because he thinks it'll be awesome. Tolkien himself said he's never been comfortable with the way he presented orcs because of the fact they're one-dimensional killing machines. However, Tolkien wanted terrifying enemies for his heroes to be able to cut through so he created the original Mook RaceTM.

Well, he was very consistent with that and never took any time elaborating on the secret humane side of the Orcs. The Orcs existed since the Lost Tales so he had about fifty years to focus on them some more. Theoretically they are not ultimate evil and all. You have to judge by case by case basis, but he never raised that point in the books.

I mean, he is often like that. You have to read the letters to learn that Gandalf left Ea and talked with Eru after his death or that the Witch-king actually (sort of) survived the Pelennor Fields.

46 minutes ago, C.T. Phipps said:

Tolkien was a deeply conservative Catholic and progressive on racial and environmental issues for a man of his time but he was also a man who wanted to write a Neo-Norse Myth, which he did. Middle Earth doesn't necessarily represent some sort of idealized or crystallized manifesto for his socio-political views.

The thing is, that this actually changed overtime. Later on Middle-earth sort of became the mental home of the Professor's thoughts. Issues he wrestled with in his mind became issues in his world. 

The Lost Tales still have that innocent playful quality to it. A young man who writes some fake mythology for the fun of it. But the later versions of the story are much more different, and he actually begins to think about how much of this stuff actually makes sense. The best example of this is him actually burying the ridiculous flat earth cosmology. He was embarrassed by that and his work had become to important to him to just brush it off and refer to the (pretty good) symbolism of the mythology of the lights. The idea of the Lamps, the Trees, and the Silmaril carrying light that's older than sun and moon is a very interesting mythological topic.

46 minutes ago, C.T. Phipps said:

I think it's important to keep this in mind that sometimes a Balrog of Morgoth is just a Balrog of Morgoth, not some commentary on the fires of industry being the doom of dwarves. In particular, I think people are just dead wrong about their attempt to make Aragorn into apologia for monarchy. Aragorn is a perfect monarch but Isildur wasn't, Tolkien briefly considered making Ar-Pharazon into a person his wife voluntarily gave the crown, and kings are basically a mixture of bad as well as good.

That isn't the point. Aragorn isn't an apologia for monarchy because Tolkien really has no reason to present monarchy as bad (or criticizing it as a concept). My point is that Aragorn really isn't a character that is presented as earning his kingship. He is presented as the ideal king whose coming has been prophesied. And in that sense he is not a realistic character. Nor does he have to be in the story. It is a mythological setting where royal blood and heritage is actually special. Aragorn isn't a great guy who deserves to be a king he is a great guy because he is the king. His blood, heritage, and props make him what he is.

Nobody ever said there were only ideal monarchs in Tolkien's world. Far from it. But Aragorn is one such. Nobody ever said Isildur was a great guy, either. But he (and Feanor, Boromir, Saruman, Denethor, Gollum, etc.) are symptomatic for Tolkien's fallen characters in the sense that all of them die because of their mistakes, with some of them repenting before they die. Why not allow some of them to actually learn from their mistakes. Boromir could have lived. Feanor could have lived (at least a while longer) and so on.

46 minutes ago, C.T. Phipps said:

I'm also weirded out how little headspace The Hobbit occupies in these discussions, as if the book flat out doesn't exist. I mentioned this in jest earlier but seriously, the book rips to shreds a lot of the ideas floating here. Bard may be an awesome King but he's as willing to rob the Dwarves as anyone, the Elf King is an ass, and Thorin is a pompous buffoon until his dying day. There's also the fact the Shire, which is a modern-to-the-Medieval World anachronistic rural England is clearly a much-much nicer place. In effect, parodying the idea of "The Good Old Days."

But isn't the Shire already a little bit 'The Good Old Days' when Tolkien is writing LotR?

As for the Hobbit in general, yes, it is funny. And Tolkien can be funny. Farmer Giles is funny, too. Nobody ever said he could also laugh about the things he liked in heroic literature. But the Hobbit (and Farmer Giles or Mr Bliss) really aren't as important to his works than the other stuff. In fact, it is an accident that the whole Hobbit thing became part of the mythology. Tolkien referenced Gondolin and the Orc Wars to put some in-jokes into the book. Only when the Hobbit sequel became also a sequel to the Silmarillion did the whole thing become connected the way it is (and ruined the old Silmarillion geography in the process).

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Sure, and a lot of the stuff is cool. The interesting things there are the details, I think, not so much the outlines. Take the Hobbits introducing themselves in Bree. Our little esquires Merry and Pippin both get a 'Mr.' before they names but Sam doesn't. That Tolkien unconsciously expressing that there is a fundamental class difference between the aristocratic gentleman Hobbits and the working class Gamgees.

That the class-differences EXIST doesn't necessarily think Tolkien was idealizing them either. To quote Martin Scorsese, portrayal isn't condoning. Samwise Gamgee is a Working Class hero of the most decided working sort but ends up in the position of the Shire's ruler every bit as much as Aragorn. Sam has no secret bloodline and is decidedly the HeroTM of the piece more so than Frodo (who is the adopted son of an upjumped merchant) or the Brandybucks.

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Well, he was very consistent with that and never took any time elaborating on the secret humane side of the Orcs. The Orcs existed since the Lost Tales so he had about fifty years to focus on them some more. Theoretically they are not ultimate evil and all. You have to judge by case by case basis, but he never raised that point in the books.

It's actually my point that orcs are a plot device for the most part. They're something which exists to give the humans something to stab and it's something he's known to have struggled with. One of the things which Tolkien believed in due to his Catholic beliefs was redemption and mercy as an importat thing but this actually runs up against the themes of the story he wants to tell. It's why they're given lip service in the books but they always have villains who die or reject it.

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The Lost Tales still have that innocent playful quality to it. A young man who writes some fake mythology for the fun of it. But the later versions of the story are much more different, and he actually begins to think about how much of this stuff actually makes sense. The best example of this is him actually burying the ridiculous flat earth cosmology. He was embarrassed by that and his work had become too important to him to just brush it off and refer to the (pretty good) symbolism of the mythology of the lights. The idea of the Lamps, the Trees, and the Silmaril carrying light that's older than sun and moon is a very interesting mythological topic.

Eh, you can still want a consistent and rich mythology while also not having it a one-for-one reflection of the self.
 

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That isn't the point. Aragorn isn't an apologia for monarchy because Tolkien really has no reason to present monarchy as bad (or criticizing it as a concept). My point is that Aragorn really isn't a character that is presented as earning his kingship. He is presented as the ideal king whose coming has been prophesied. And in that sense he is not a realistic character. Nor does he have to be in the story. It is a mythological setting where royal blood and heritage is actually special. Aragorn isn't a great guy who deserves to be a king he is a great guy because he is the king. His blood, heritage, and props make him what he is.

I'm actually not sure that concept is as ingrained as people make it out to be. The Rohan are ruled by a King but Tolkien is very clear they're "low blood" in the context of not being Numenoreans and the Gondorians are "high blood" but Faramir outright says there's almost no difference between the two of them.

As for Aragorn not "earning" his kingship, with all due respect, that's ludicrous. He spends decades as a Ranger on the front lines fighting the forces of Mordor and keeping the lands of the West safe. He also takes over from Denethor in leading a military rescue of the Gondorian host as accompanied by a host of specters. He's not "The Sword in the Stone", showing up and claiming the sword.

Indeed, he's very much instead one of the working class heroes who is secretly a Prince versus the Wise Prince Archetype.

Interestingly, those of different "bloods" are constantly marrying with no stigma to that. Faramir and Eowyn, Arwen and Aragorn, Beren and Luthien, and so on.

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Nobody ever said there were only ideal monarchs in Tolkien's world. Far from it. But Aragorn is one such. Nobody ever said Isildur was a great guy, either. But he (and Feanor, Boromir, Saruman, Denethor, Gollum, etc.) are symptomatic for Tolkien's fallen characters in the sense that all of them die because of their mistakes, with some of them repenting before they die. Why not allow some of them to actually learn from their mistakes. Boromir could have lived. Feanor could have lived (at least a while longer) and so on.


Theodan certainly lives to learn and recant from his mistakes.

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13 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

I know that, but wouldn't you agree that this is more show for the public rather than them actually having the right to decide who should be there king? The way Tolkien spins the tale it is quite clear that Aragorn is the rightful king and people rejecting him would have been wrong.

Lets broaden the topic by asking the question what made Arthur or Jesus king? The will of god and the miracles who expressed/confirmed god's will or the will of the people?

Aragorn has the right ancestry, fulfills ancient prophecy, is heralded as king by a divine being, and has the correct artifacts to identify him as the king (the reforged Narsil, the Elessar, the banner Arwen made him).

Sure, but Faramir is a good little sorcerer's pet. He would have crowned Aragorn in any scenario.

Well, those weren't realized, were they?

Nobody said the Gondorians are all good and always do the right thing. But they pay for that. Rejecting Arvedui and Fíriel as the new rulers of Gondor and Arthedain led to the victory of Witch-king in the North and the loss of Minas Ithil and the end of Anárions line in the South.

The Kin-strife was also bad, of course.

Well, considering that there is no United Kingdom of the Dúnedain in our days something must have happened that brought it down. But Denethor wasn't as bad as ruler. He was interested in his own land and people - Aragorn saw the larger picture. The idea that his successors would always see that is very unlikely. There is a reason why he was the last Númenórean.

That was hyperbole on my part. He is a Dúnadan nobleman, of course. But he doesn't have (sufficient) royal blood in his veins to ever claim the throne and crown of Gondor. And that's the reason why he is inferior to Aragorn and his bloodline. He is a servant not a ruler, and he forgets that he and his predecessors were just stand-ins for the king until his return. Faramir understands that, and Cirion understood that, too.

  • Denethor and the Stewards are, legally, waiting until the return of Earnur - the King who never returned. The precedent is that the House of Anarion rules Gondor, not the line of Isildur - if they were waiting for a Heir of Isildur, the monarchy would have been restored much earlier. Hell, Aragorn as Thorongil could have revealed himself to Ecthelion at the height of his popularity.
  • Related to the above, the "seeking consent of the people" is acknowledging the precedent of rejection. Are they willing to set aside the dead legalities of the past? Yes, they are. Had this taken place at any time other than the War of the Ring, the result might well have been different, and the Stewards are the one with the army.
  • Faramir notes that the Kings of Gondor became "childless Lords, musing on heraldry" - and that the Stewards were better and more active rulers. Certainly, no-one should see Earnur (blood of Anarion or not) as anything more than a meat-headed idiot.  
  • Denethor explicitly tells Boromir that "ten thousand years would not make a Steward a King". With Denethor, the status quo is the figurative King.
  • The third book is called The Return of the King because that was a publishing decision. Tolkien thought it was too spoilery, and preferred The War of the Ring.

Incidentally, compare Aragorn with the "return of the King" in The Hobbit. Thorin goes around screaming "I am the King. Obey me!" Yes, he has the lineage, but it doesn't do him any good. Aragorn by contrast earns the throne.

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I'd like to mention the Kingship vs. the Stewardship isn't exactly unprecedented as well.

Shogun vs. Emperor.

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14 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Well, those are mostly extras. I mean, who was Nerdanel as a character. All we know about her is that Feanor listened for her at a time. That's it.

Given what we know about Feanor, that Nerdanel was able to restrain him when no-one else could, says a fair bit about her. Maedhros and Maglor inheriting her temperament (rather than Dad's) also allows us to make inferences about her personality, given what we know about her sons. 

Oh, and there's the other bits and pieces - she wasn't particularly pretty (brown hair and ruddy complexion), but Feanor married her anyway. She went through more pregnancies than any other Tolkien Elf - which again testifies to her strength (since Elf pregnancies are apparently very draining). She was a talented smith in her own right (HOME XII has her being able to build uncanny statues), from a family of smiths. And she and Feanor went through the closest Tolkien ever comes to describing a divorce.

All in all, there's a fair bit to unpack there. She doesn't get many lines, but as with so much of Tolkien, there's plenty implied.

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9 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

In the works the past wasn't always that great but most times it was. The Blessed Realm was great before the Unchaining of Melkor. Doriath was a great place before Morgoth came back to Middle-earth, Eregion was cozy enough before Annatar came. Númenor was a great place, too, before its people fell, and so on.

As has been pointed out, the entire point of the Rings of Power was to preserve the past. And that was not a Good Thing(TM). 

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9 hours ago, C.T. Phipps said:

Tolkien was a deeply conservative Catholic and progressive on racial and environmental issues for a man of his time but he was also a man who wanted to write a Neo-Norse Myth, which he did. Middle Earth doesn't necessarily represent some sort of idealized or crystallized manifesto for his socio-political views.

Tolkien agreed with you:

With regard to The Lord of the Rings, I cannot claim to be a sufficient theologian to say whether my notion of orcs is heretical or not. I don't feel under any obligation to make my story fit with formalized Christian theology, though I actually intended it to be consonant with Christian thought and belief, which is asserted elsewhere.

(Letter 269 - 12th May, 1965). 

So, yes, the work is intended to be in harmony with Christianity, but Tolkien stops short of fitting his work within formal theology - and as noted earlier, organised religion is very much in the background.

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I, personally, also think Tolkien did a really great job with quality over quantity. Galadriel and Eowyn really make up for a lot of in terms of female representation. Frankly, Eowyn going off to be a "housewife" is kind of an interesting bit of shaming given the fact THE WAR IS OVER. You could argue her putting up the sword is a defeat but that's a view of conflict where only the career soldier is justified.

Eowyn is also going to remain royalty.

Could Tolkien have used some more female characters? Yes, but he has big and important ones involved in rulership and war.

Which at the time was incredibly progressive.

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6 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

As has been pointed out, the entire point of the Rings of Power was to preserve the past. And that was not a Good Thing(TM). 

I also think that kind of frames things in a too linear fashion which isn't true to the narrative. Numenor was the greatest in terms of largest civilizations in the world and longest lived but it was also morally corrupt. Yes, the World is Broken by Melkor. However, Tolkien also established everything Melkor did was also to the eventual betterment of the world.

Aragorn also makes Gondor a greater civilization. kingdoms get established which have fallen, and the passing of the elves is the way it was meant to be.

I think people miss a bit of Tolkien's subtlety when they note that, YES, his world the world becomes less magical and less mythological with binary good and evil as the ages past but this isn't a bad thing. Tolkien holds up the Shire as a paradise in its own way and an example of how the world could be but people don't like the idea a rural pleasant plain existence is better than Numenor in its own way. So they reject it and think the world is always gettingw orse.

Moorcock has a point that if you aren't all about pastoral green countryside, that may suck, but it very much is Tolkien's intentions it does not.

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16 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

But if you have a pretty clear picture how your gender should be portrayed

In such a case one will either have to stay within a fairly narrow bubble of literature or will be bound to be disappointed and scandalized. Which could open the mind a little, if only to acknowledge "it ain't necessarily so"...

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2 hours ago, C.T. Phipps said:

I, personally, also think Tolkien did a really great job with quality over quantity. Galadriel and Eowyn really make up for a lot of in terms of female representation. Frankly, Eowyn going off to be a "housewife" is kind of an interesting bit of shaming given the fact THE WAR IS OVER. You could argue her putting up the sword is a defeat but that's a view of conflict where only the career soldier is justified.

Eowyn is also going to remain royalty.

Could Tolkien have used some more female characters? Yes, but he has big and important ones involved in rulership and war.

Which at the time was incredibly progressive.

The pacification and settlement of Ithilien would take decades, so no doubt Eowyn had plenty to do.

She was obviously very important politically in Rohan, given that Théoden left her in charge of the Kingdom (presumably, she must have handed over authority to someone when she rode away).

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