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Ser Scot A Ellison

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

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22 minutes ago, C.T. Phipps said:

If we're discussing Tolkien versus Martin we should also note that Martin HAS released his own version of the Silmarillion and it was co-written with the hosts of this site with THE WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE.

Ugh. That makes it sound like The Silmarillion is mere worldbuilding, rather than a story in its own right that predates LOTR by decades.

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16 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Oh agreed. I meant it was interesting in the sense that Martin (unlike Moorcock) actually "gets" Middle-earth, and isn't on some weird ideological war-path. Martin is like those people who contacted Tolkien in the aftermath of LOTR's publication:

…while many like you demand maps, others wish for geological indications rather than places; many want Elvish grammars, phonologies and specimens; some want metrics and prosodies… Musicians want tunes, and musical notation; archaeologists want ceramics and metallurgy; botanists want a more accurate description of mallorn, of elanor, niphredil, alfirin, mallos, symbelmynë; historians want more detail about the social and political structure of Gondor

On the good person/good king front, Tolkien throws up several examples of these not going together:

  • Tar-Palantir - The Numenorean who tries to repent. Too little, too late.
  • Theoden - A kindly old man, but what was he doing listening to Wormtongue in the first place?
  • Denethor - Highly intelligent and competent, yet paranoid, petty, and a bit too fond of playing politics.
  • Ar-Pharazon - If you value expansionism and military might (which Tolkien admittedly didn't), up until the end, he was one of the best Kings Numenor ever had. The guy defeated Sauron when Sauron had the Ring, to the point where even Elendil's Heirs remember his actions with pride.
  • Earnur - Last King of Gondor before Aragorn. Great warrior, terrible and irresponsible King.
  • Feanor - Toxic personality, amazing charisma.
  • Maglor - The nicest of Feanor's sons. But gets pushed into everything by the more assertive.
  • Thorin Oakenshield - Things go to his head, and he spends his short reign basically screaming "I am the rightful King! You will respect me!" But he was Bilbo's friend before then.

Et cetera.

I remember you cited Orodreth as another example of a nice guy who was a terrible king (as an aside, the quality of Elven leadership is dreadful on the whole).

One thing that Tolkien probably would not have accepted (unlike Martin) is that some bad men make good kings.

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Not just Orodreth now that I think about it (a doormat if ever there was one), but Finrod Felagund deserves a mention - a wonderful person, who actually cared about these new mortal creatures, but who as ruler of Nargothrond truly put Honour before Sense. The Quest for the Silmaril was blatantly suicidal, and in heading out with Beren, he left his muppet nephew at the mercy of Celegorm and Curufin.

Bad men making good rulers - early Ar-Pharazon and Denethor would count, I think, though the former is debatable. Maedhros was probably one of the most effective Elven leaders, and he's certainly a bona fide grey character.

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15 minutes ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Not just Orodreth now that I think about it (a doormat if ever there was one), but Finrod Felagund deserves a mention - a wonderful person, who actually cared about these new mortal creatures, but who as ruler of Nargothrond truly put Honour before Sense. The Quest for the Silmaril was blatantly suicidal, and in heading out with Beren, he left his muppet nephew at the mercy of Celegorm and Curufin.

Bad men making good rulers - early Ar-Pharazon and Denethor would count, I think, though the former is debatable. Maedhros was probably one of the most effective Elven leaders, and he's certainly a bona fide grey character.

Like Sir Hugh Melchett, in Blackadder IV, I don't doubt  that that the Elven royal leaders of the First Age would have viewed the Charge of the Light Brigade as being a victory for common sense.

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Nice essay, though I don't think Numenor was a failed experiment so much as Sauron really did a number on him and its King truly was epically awful.

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I think the core disagreement can be represented by contrasting:

Quote

McGarry and Ravipinto [referring to Stross?]: Fantasy fiction is based on an assumption that the old ways are inherently good, and that the power structures that are to be protected or restored are ultimately best for all people. Many seminal works of fantasy are suffused with a romantic vision of earlier ages, a melancholy longing for better days, and the certain knowledge that the current generation is but a pale shadow of greater forefathers. Those that came before simply knew better, and the restoration of their ways is something to be celebrated.

with

Quote

 RBPL/Phuulish Fellow: In other words, the conflict is not one of old ways vs new ways, or about the folly of departing from tradition, but rather about humility vs arrogance, and the folly of obsessing about the here-and-now. A value system gets value, not from its age and venerability, but from the nature and quality of its moral teaching

The traditionalist believes not primarily in certain power structures or forms of government (although he certainly has preferences there as well) but in "perennial wisdom" wrt to morality and some other fields that is not better because it is older (there will often be a "barbaric stage" before such wisdom is broadly and officially recognized, so older is never simply better) but because it is closer to the Truth.

One can of course disagree with this for all kinds of reasons (or think of it as pretentious dressing for reactionary longings) but if one does not understand what this position is one will thoroughly misunderstand writers like Tolkien or Lewis. Whatever their faults these guys also were (for obvious reasons of their professional educations) more deeply acquainted with a whole bunch of historical cultures and empires than almost any more recent fantasy author. To think that they fell victim to some simplistic rose-colored vision of some idealized middle ages seems far-fetched.

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On ‎10‎/‎23‎/‎2016 at 6:00 AM, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Sixth instalment:

https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/of-j-r-r-tolkien-and-status-quos-part-vi/

(I come dangerously close to agreeing with TrackerNeil, at least partially, here).

At Pharazon's early friendship with Amandil (and the fact that he didn't take reprisals against Amandil, even after he began worshipping Melkor) suggest there may have been some good in him at some point.

But, I can't really see him as the victim of a bad press.  He spent decades extending an extremely brutal empire throughout Middle Earth, even before he became King.  He wed Miriel by force, and usurped her Throne.  And, then he took one awful decision after another as King, finally leading his Kingdom to destruction. 

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2 hours ago, SeanF said:

But, I can't really see him as the victim of a bad press.  He spent decades extending an extremely brutal empire throughout Middle Earth, even before he became King.  He wed Miriel by force, and usurped her Throne.  And, then he took one awful decision after another as King, finally leading his Kingdom to destruction. 

The Miriel thing actually had an alternative version:

http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/The_History_of_the_Akallabêth

Basically, it seems Tolkien planned a rewrite where Miriel fell head over heels for Pharazon, but didn't get around to finishing it.

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3 minutes ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

The Miriel thing actually had an alternative version:

http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/The_History_of_the_Akallabêth

Basically, it seems Tolkien planned a rewrite where Miriel fell head over heels for Pharazon, but didn't get around to finishing it.

It's a shame that Tolkien was constantly chopping and changing.

I suppose, arguing against my earlier point, I could say that even the Faithful Numenoreans never disputed that Numenoreans were entitled to rule over the non-Numenoreans, so the fact that At-Pharazon was an imperialist is not really something that Elendil could fairly hold against him. 

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On the imperialism front, both Tolkien and ourselves would unquestionably regard Numenor as being in the wrong. My point is that (pre-Sauron) Ar-Pharazon is arguably less a classical villain, and more a sort of James K. Polk or Viscount Palmerston figure - incredibly effective at doing some reprehensible stuff, but initially a grey-hat rather than a black-hat.

(I mean, even Gondor fondly remembers his humiliation of Sauron).  

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29 minutes ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

On the imperialism front, both Tolkien and ourselves would unquestionably regard Numenor as being in the wrong. My point is that (pre-Sauron) Ar-Pharazon is arguably less a classical villain, and more a sort of James K. Polk or Viscount Palmerston figure - incredibly effective at doing some reprehensible stuff, but initially a grey-hat rather than a black-hat.

(I mean, even Gondor fondly remembers his humiliation of Sauron).  

Numenor must have had some remarkably effective technology, and/or magic under their control, for Sauron to be persuaded that armed resistance to mortals would be futile (at a time when he had the One Ring, and huge armies under his command).

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4 hours ago, SeanF said:

Numenor must have had some remarkably effective technology, and/or magic under their control, for Sauron to be persuaded that armed resistance to mortals would be futile (at a time when he had the One Ring, and huge armies under his command).

I think Gondor also ignores Sauron utterly Palpatined them.

Generally, I think the forced marriage to his cousin makes a better story, though.

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BTW, I just came across this but it's humorous that the same year Moorcock wrote Epic Pooh, someone read his stuff and wrote a scathing takedown of his fantasy work as crypto-fascist.

http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/14/alpers14art.htm

It basically is a gigantic pro-Marxist bunch of balderdash in my opinion, notable for the fact it was written in West Germany right at the time when things were at their worst but has a few grains of point in it--ironically the ones Moorcock raised.

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On 26.10.2016 at 1:57 AM, C.T. Phipps said:

BTW, I just came across this but it's humorous that the same year Moorcock wrote Epic Pooh, someone read his stuff and wrote a scathing takedown of his fantasy work as crypto-fascist.

http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/14/alpers14art.htm

It basically is a gigantic pro-Marxist bunch of balderdash in my opinion, notable for the fact it was written in West Germany right at the time when things were at their worst but has a few grains of point in it--ironically the ones Moorcock raised.

I read this text before; I guess someone here (sologdin?) had linked it some time ago. It's quite interesting although typical of 70s/early 80s leftist academic literature criticism. (But in any case one should grant the leftists that they even bothered to write on "genre literature"; conservative academics would probably simply have dismissed it as cheap trash at that time.)

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2 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Taking a break from TrackerNeil, and having a comment on someone else:

https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2016/10/27/tolkiens-dwarves-and-alleged-anti-semitism/

It would never have occurred to me to connect Dwarves to Jews, had I not read Tolkien's letters.  I always saw them as characters from Norse/Germanic mythology.

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While I think RBPL is correct in refuting the paper he discusses, there is a prominent precedent where the case can be made that norse dwarves are given some features similar to antisemitic caricatures: Wagner's Ring operas, the characters of Alberich and especially Mime. Those dwarves are horny, greedy, sly, etc. And as Wagner was an outspoken antisemite (and some of his followers even worse) the connection to antisemitic stereotypes is much more plausible.

http://www.artpassions.net/cgi-bin/rackham.pl?../galleries/rackham/ring/ring2.jpg

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1 hour ago, Weeping Sore said:

Galadriel is such a classic shiksa, giving her hair to a mensch like Gimli...

There's no better language for insults than Yiddish.

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