Jump to content

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Ser Scot A Ellison

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

Recommended Posts

Treebeard and Gandalf let Saruman go... the result was that Saruman destroyed The Shire. But the point is that letting Saruman go (as Frodo tries to do again) was a good act, in and of itself, since it allowed Saruman the opportunity to repent. He didn't take it, but at least he had the chance, and the fault for The Shire's destruction does not rest with those who granted him mercy, but with Saruman and those like Lotho. Free will and all that.

If you want a "political" leader of Gondor, see Denethor - whom I've previously described as the Richard Nixon of Middle-earth. Denethor made the equation Gondor = Good, anything opposed to Gondor = Bad, and conducted his foreign policy accordingly. Sauron was opposed, not because he was monstrous, but because he was a threat to the polity and interests of Gondor. Which (even without the Ring) ties into the point that there is little moral point in replacing a tyrant in a Dark Tower with a tyrant in a White Tower.

Aragorn, the heir to a brutal colonial Empire, did not do that - he (like Tolkien) had a much greater faith in the ability of people to govern themselves. This isn't about patronising consequentialism (the Iraq analogy in any case falls over because Gondor and Rohan were hardly invading Mordor - the aggression was the other direction), but rather that Imperialism is Bad.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry to ask, but I keep seeing references to GRRM's criticisms of Tolkien...where exactly are these criticisms made?  I'm sure GRRM differs with Tolkien on much but all I've ever heard him explicitly say, in person and online, has been praise and respect for Tolkien.  In fact, contra Moorcock and Stross, I've heard him on a number of occasions defend Tolkien from direct and even implied criticism (most memorably, during a reading when an audience member complimented GRRM's writing of women in contrast to Tolkien's, which drew a gentle rebuke from GRRM along with an R-rated version of Arwen's final words to the Witch-King!).

Is there some source for this supposed critical attitude?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Tracker,

Okay, what about allowing the Elvish people to go extinct in ME because she chose not to take up the Ring?

I think the line from Galadriel's choice to the departure of the elves from Middle-Earth isn't a direct connection. Maybe it contributed, but maybe not. If Galadriel had taken the Ring, she would likely have become another Sauron, which would hasten the departure of the elves, I'd think.

42 minutes ago, frodostark said:

Sorry to ask, but I keep seeing references to GRRM's criticisms of Tolkien...where exactly are these criticisms made?  I'm sure GRRM differs with Tolkien on much but all I've ever heard him explicitly say, in person and online, has been praise and respect for Tolkien.  In fact, contra Moorcock and Stross, I've heard him on a number of occasions defend Tolkien from direct and even implied criticism (most memorably, during a reading when an audience member complimented GRRM's writing of women in contrast to Tolkien's, which drew a gentle rebuke from GRRM along with an R-rated version of Arwen's final words to the Witch-King!).

Is there some source for this supposed critical attitude?

The paper references one criticism. Also, you seem to imply that criticism is a bad thing. If people are criticizing a work, it's usually because there's something of substance there. Believe me, I am delighted that RBPL is critiquing my paper--as Oscar Wilde said, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. So what's the problem with GRRM criticizing LOTR?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thin there is a difference between GRRM's criticisms and say Moorcocks criticisms. For onc, GRRM actually has read LotR. :P

 

Edit: Full disclosure: I hate Moorock and everything he has ever written or done and his existence offends me. So yes I'm biased.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
57 minutes ago, frodostark said:

Sorry to ask, but I keep seeing references to GRRM's criticisms of Tolkien...where exactly are these criticisms made? 

Ruling is hard. This was maybe my answer to Tolkien, whom, as much as I admire him, I do quibble with. Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it’s not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn’t ask the question: What was Aragorn’s tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren’t gone – they’re in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?

http://www.tolkiensociety.org/2014/04/grrm-asks-what-was-aragorns-tax-policy/

The war that Tolkien wrote about was a war for the fate of civilization and the future of humanity, and that’s become the template. I’m not sure that it’s a good template, though. The Tolkien model led generations of fantasy writers to produce these endless series of dark lords and their evil minions who are all very ugly and wear black clothes. But the vast majority of wars throughout history are not like that.

All interesting points, of course - I have far more respect for Martin than Moorcock - but I'll get to those eventually.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, Darth Richard II said:

Edit: Full disclosure: I hate Moorock and everything he has ever written or done and his existence offends me. So yes I'm biased.

Full disclosure - Moorcock's actually the author by whom I've read the most books (53). However, notwithstanding that he hasn't written a good book in over thirty years, he's got an ego the size of Mount Everest. I think his distaste for Tolkien is less about quality, and more about ideology, not that Moorcock would ever admit it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, RBPL, that's what I was missing...I'd agree with GRRM that that seems more of a quibble than a Moorcockian blast of derision.  

To TrackerNeil: I was using "criticism," admittedly, in a less than precise manner.  I meant it more in reference to the Moorcock type of commentary, which is almost more of an ideological attack than a criticism in the classical sense.  There's certainly nothing wrong with criticizing art.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
44 minutes ago, TrackerNeil said:

I think the line from Galadriel's choice to the departure of the elves from Middle-Earth isn't a direct connection. Maybe it contributed, but maybe not. If Galadriel had taken the Ring, she would likely have become another Sauron, which would hasten the departure of the elves, I'd think.

You say that as though all Elves would be turned off by one of their own wielding Earthly power and using it to give Elves the rightful place they lost at the end of the Elder days.  Yes, Galadriel with mastery over the One Ring would be a "Lady of Darkness" but she would be "their Lady of Darkness".  We see right now how some are attracted to "powerful people" who promise to smack the right asses.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

You say that as though all Elves would be turned off by one of their own wielding Earthly power and using it to give Elves the rightful place they lost at the end of the Elder days.  Yes, Galadriel with mastery over the One Ring would be a "Lady of Darkness" but she would be "their Lady of Darkness".  We see right now how some are attracted to "powerful people" who promise to smack the right asses.

Heck, that's how Galadriel (among others) ended up coming to Middle-earth in the first place.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
39 minutes ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Full disclosure - Moorcock's actually the author by whom I've read the most books (53). However, notwithstanding that he hasn't written a good book in over thirty years, he's got an ego the size of Mount Everest. I think his distaste for Tolkien is less about quality, and more about ideology, not that Moorcock would ever admit it.

I'll admit I liked nomad of the time streams and that moorcock had some neat ideas. I'll also admit after certain political debates tonight I am slighty tipsy and disgruntled. :P

i think that one interview where moorcock complains about pulp is pretty funny though, considering.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I keep my Tolkien and Moorcock books shelved near each other just for the fun of it.  :P  Mostly Moorcock's views on Tolkien didn't really bug me even though I disagreed, although I did think the protagonist of King of the City taking semi-frequent shots at Tolkien was more awkward than not given the character was not a total Moorcock stand-in.  In fact the real Moorcock had an off-screen cameo in the book. 

If I have any reservations about Moorcock it's the way he can sometimes be dismissive of a lot of his own adventure fantasy.  It has struck me as a bit weird that Moorcock has been so critical of fantasy at large while also admitting he used the genre for purely commercial reasons.

That said, I still like his work.  Definitely looking forward to The Woods of Arcady. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm loving these pieces, thank you for writing them. It makes an unusual change to find something we agree on!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Tracker,

Everyone was manipulated by Morgoth.  Feanor was hugely prideful and Morgoth exploted that pride to build resentment between Feanor and his younger half brothers Fingolfin and Finarfin.  Morgoth played on Manwe's forgiving nature and misunderstanding of those who desire power to allow these divisions to be created in the first place.

Morgoth manipulated masterfully.

My point about Galadriel is that while you dismiss her fault as a "bit of ambition" she really did want to take the ring understanding fully that she would lose herself in the process and that she would give the ring a being of such power that it would be impossible to stop her once she choice to weild that power.  Her moment was dangerous, supremely dangerous. 

Think about it this way.  Had Galadriel taken the ring the power of the Elven rings would never have been lost.  The realms of the Elves would have stopped their decline and a very different ending the LOTR would have had to be written.

Some speculate that it was her refusal to take the ring, and thereby allowing the final full diminishment of the Elves, that is what allowed her to travel back to Valinor with Gandalf, Elrond, and Frodo.

 

I think that's the only thing that allowed her to travel back to Valinor.  At the moment she rejected the Ring, I don't think she had any certainty that she would be allowed back to Valinor, making it a remarkable act of self-sacrifice.

Galadriel's predicament must have been terrible.  On the one hand, if Sauron found the Ring, she alone among Elves would be doomed to remain on Middle Earth;  sooner or later she would be captured, and face an eternity of torment at his hands.  On the other hand, her fate would not be much better if the Ring was destroyed.  The power of the Elven rings would fail, and she and Lorien, and all of its people would dwindle to nothing.

And, Frodo gave her the chance to save herself, her people, her works, to avenge her brother, and to rule the world, by offering her the Ring.  She wouldn't even have to take it by force.  I'm pretty sure in her position, I'd have said "Thank you very much, Frodo."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

You say that as though all Elves would be turned off by one of their own wielding Earthly power and using it to give Elves the rightful place they lost at the end of the Elder days.  Yes, Galadriel with mastery over the One Ring would be a "Lady of Darkness" but she would be "their Lady of Darkness".  We see right now how some are attracted to "powerful people" who promise to smack the right asses.

I imagine most Elves would have been delighted if she'd taken the One Ring, at least to start with.  Elven power and leadership would have been restored in Middle Earth.  Eventually, she would have become as depraved a tyrant as Sauron, but the process would have been very gradual.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Ruling is hard. This was maybe my answer to Tolkien, whom, as much as I admire him, I do quibble with. Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it’s not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn’t ask the question: What was Aragorn’s tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren’t gone – they’re in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?

http://www.tolkiensociety.org/2014/04/grrm-asks-what-was-aragorns-tax-policy/

The war that Tolkien wrote about was a war for the fate of civilization and the future of humanity, and that’s become the template. I’m not sure that it’s a good template, though. The Tolkien model led generations of fantasy writers to produce these endless series of dark lords and their evil minions who are all very ugly and wear black clothes. But the vast majority of wars throughout history are not like that.

All interesting points, of course - I have far more respect for Martin than Moorcock - but I'll get to those eventually.

Martin is very good at writing about politics, but I don't think he actually gives us much more information about the way that the Seven Kingdoms is governed than Tolkien does.  Unless I've missed something, I've no real idea how the Seven Kingdoms are taxed, or administered.  There's a King, a permanent Small Council, an intermittent Great Council (which rules on the succession), and some kind of bureaucracy.  But, I don't know how powerful any of these institutions are, compared to the local landowners (who seem to exercise a huge amount of power).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 18 octobre 2016 at 3:50 PM, Sword of Funny said:

The state of the human race has continually improved in all meaningful measurable ways, we have just enjoyed decades of the most peaceful time on earth in human history, there is the highest average standard of living in human history. In short, humans are fighting a long victory and there is no reason to doubt that they will continue to do so.

Ecologically speaking, the world is in dire straights. Tolkien at least got that right.

Roose already pointed to this. Since people have amply talked about WW I and II, it's worth pointing that yours was the main opinion in the West in the early 20th century, even in 1913. Then people had a nasty wake-up call about human nature and history being all about progress for good.

That said, Tolkien himself was quite clear about the fact that the first 3 Ages were awful because Evil was actually embodied and living right in our midst, at the time. Nowadays, there isn't any pure Evil anymore, just shades of grey, and however bad things are, they're less hopeless than during the wars if Beleriand or the War of the Ring - I think Tolkien would even add "specially after Jesus' time" for obvious Christian reasons.

And when it comes to grey, it's obvious that LOTR is way less nuanced than most of Tolkien other writings on Middle-Earth - Silm, UT, HOME all being quite greyish. On this point, I don't disagree with those who state LOTR has a fair share of black and white in it - it's not that realistic and explains why it's not a grimdark fest like Silmarillion -; but it should be expected from that kind of work, it's just as much an Epic as a fiction novel.

 

(that's mostly OT, but I don't think one can distinguish "ecological" situation from global state of mankind - if we're ecologically screwed, then it means it'll be over for us soon, whatever our current situation is)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, SeanF said:

Martin is very good at writing about politics, but I don't think he actually gives us much more information about the way that the Seven Kingdoms is governed than Tolkien does.  Unless I've missed something, I've no real idea how the Seven Kingdoms are taxed, or administered.  There's a King, a permanent Small Council, an intermittent Great Council (which rules on the succession), and some kind of bureaucracy.  But, I don't know how powerful any of these institutions are, compared to the local landowners (who seem to exercise a huge amount of power).

Martin is clearly very proud of Tyrion's tax on prostitution (since it is the only bit of tax policy we get in ASOIAF). Taxing prostitution just seems a recipe for driving it underground, so I don't think it's that great a fiscal idea myself. Oh, and since Davos is a smuggler, we'd have to assume that there's some sort of tax on imported products, but it never gets mentioned.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Martin is clearly very proud of Tyrion's tax on prostitution (since it is the only bit of tax policy we get in ASOIAF). Taxing prostitution just seems a recipe for driving it underground, so I don't think it's that great a fiscal idea. Oh, and since Davos is a smuggler, we'd have to assume that there's some sort of tax on imported products, but it never get mentioned.

IIRC, there's a tax on Arbour wine that gets remitted for 20 years (which must have been fiscally ruinous).  That must be some form of export duty, or internal customs duty.

Caligula imposed a tax on prostitutes, but I'm not sure how successful it was.  There is actually interesting modern case law, about whether HMRC is entitled to tax earnings from prostitution (they are).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

×