Jump to content
SeanF

Tolkien 3.0

Recommended Posts

11 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

FFS.

The curriculum was being put together in the 1930s. At that point, you were much more likely to find imperialist and nationalistic sentiments in 'modern' literature than in the older stuff favoured by Tolkien and Lewis. The literature Tolkien favoured (i.e. anything pre-Chaucer) pre-dated the Empire altogether, and his literary speciality (Beowulf) is not about England at all.

(I'd actually like to know what, exactly, was on this evil curriculum).

The interview tells you.

You seem to have missed the points being made re colonialist -- the idea of the curriculum was to teach others what real Englishness is based in, morality and fitting behavior and outlook and all that which is supposedly brought to real English by this romanticized past.

And already in the changing to the modern curriculum in the English departments in the 30"s and 40's one sees some questioning of the assumption that anyone not English wants to learn to be English and looks to literature for the model of how to be.  When one looks one really does see a great deal of push-back -- which also came from the objects of the colonialist outlook.  One really sees it in the literature created by African and African American writer then, as well as those beginning to find their way in the Caribbean and India.

Proletarian literature was also very strong in the 30's, 40's and even 50's, as well as the Nativist literary movements in all these parts of the empire.

Gotta stop thinking only 'white' here when it comes to writers of the era, yah?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Marquis de Leech

I'd be interested if you did a piece on political and military realism in Tolkien.  I think that .as Tom Shippey said, Tolkien "bowdlerised" LOTR to a degree by not having the Gondorians and Rohirrim taking revenge on their enemies, which such people would do in real life.

OTOH, I think that we get very much the uncensored version of the story in the Appendices.  The War of the Orcs and Dwarves was genocidal on both sides.  As you've pointed out, Gondorian imperialism was a very real thing in earlier centuries, leaving the peoples of the South and East with real grievances, which Sauron could exploit.  The expulsion of the Dunlendings from Western Rohan was no doubt very brutal.  If there are no remnants of the people of Angmar, it's probably because the winners brought them fire and sword.  And of course, the Kin Strife of Gondor was vicious. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, SeanF said:

@Marquis de Leech

I'd be interested if you did a piece on political and military realism in Tolkien.  I think that .as Tom Shippey said, Tolkien "bowdlerised" LOTR to a degree by not having the Gondorians and Rohirrim taking revenge on their enemies, which such people would do in real life.

OTOH, I think that we get very much the uncensored version of the story in the Appendices.  The War of the Orcs and Dwarves was genocidal on both sides.  As you've pointed out, Gondorian imperialism was a very real thing in earlier centuries, leaving the peoples of the South and East with real grievances, which Sauron could exploit.  The expulsion of the Dunlendings from Western Rohan was no doubt very brutal.  If there are no remnants of the people of Angmar, it's probably because the winners brought them fire and sword.  And of course, the Kin Strife of Gondor was vicious. 

It strikes me that Tolkien was making a thematic point there. In his Morgoth's Ring essay on the Orcs we run across this:

But even before this wickedness of Morgoth was suspected the Wise in the Elder Days taught always that the Orcs were not 'made' by Melkor, and therefore were not in their origin evil. They might have become irredeemable (at least by Elves and Men), but they remained within the Law. That is, that though of necessity, being the fingers of the hand of Morgoth, they must be fought with the utmost severity, they must not be dealt with in their own terms of cruelty or treachery. Captives must not be tormented, not even to discover information for the defence of the homes of Elves and Men. If any Orcs surrendered and asked for mercy, they must be granted it, even at a cost.* This was the teaching of the Wise, though in the horror of the War it was not always heeded.

[footnote to the text] Few Orcs ever did so in the Elder Days, and at no time would any Orc treat with any Elf. For one thing Morgoth had achieved was to convince the Orcs beyond refutation that the Elves were crueller than themselves, taking captives only for 'amusement', or to eat them (as the Orcs would do at need).

Basically, there's a tension between the Teaching of the Wise (aka Middle-earth's Geneva Convention), and what took place on the ground. For a character like Aragorn, his claim to moral goodness would rest on him keeping to the convention - I think we can use this quote to answer George R.R. Martin's question about a genocidal war after the War of the Ring.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

It strikes me that Tolkien was making a thematic point there. In his Morgoth's Ring essay on the Orcs we run across this:

But even before this wickedness of Morgoth was suspected the Wise in the Elder Days taught always that the Orcs were not 'made' by Melkor, and therefore were not in their origin evil. They might have become irredeemable (at least by Elves and Men), but they remained within the Law. That is, that though of necessity, being the fingers of the hand of Morgoth, they must be fought with the utmost severity, they must not be dealt with in their own terms of cruelty or treachery. Captives must not be tormented, not even to discover information for the defence of the homes of Elves and Men. If any Orcs surrendered and asked for mercy, they must be granted it, even at a cost.* This was the teaching of the Wise, though in the horror of the War it was not always heeded.

[footnote to the text] Few Orcs ever did so in the Elder Days, and at no time would any Orc treat with any Elf. For one thing Morgoth had achieved was to convince the Orcs beyond refutation that the Elves were crueller than themselves, taking captives only for 'amusement', or to eat them (as the Orcs would do at need).

Basically, there's a tension between the Teaching of the Wise (aka Middle-earth's Geneva Convention), and what took place on the ground. For a character like Aragorn, his claim to moral goodness would rest on him keeping to the convention - I think we can use this quote to answer George R.R. Martin's question about a genocidal war after the War of the Ring.

 

Yes it does.

As it happens, I think if any of Martin's chief protagonists in ASOIAF had been in command at Minas Tirith, they would have pursued a war of revenge against Sauron's supporters, after victory (and Tolkien said Denethor would have done so).

Share this post


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

Yes it does.

As it happens, I think if any of Martin's chief protagonists in ASOIAF had been in command at Minas Tirith, they would have pursued a war of revenge against Sauron's supporters, after victory (and Tolkien said Denethor would have done so).

Apart from Ned, I think. Ned is arguably Martin's exploration of Tolkienian intentionalist morality, in the way that Saruman is Tolkien's exploration of Martinian consequentialist morality.

(Both Martin and Tolkien do actually have objective morality in their stories. It's just that Tolkien is intentionalist and Martin is consequentialist).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

Apart from Ned, I think. Ned is arguably Martin's exploration of Tolkienian intentionalist morality, in the way that Saruman is Tolkien's exploration of Martinian consequentialist morality.

(Both Martin and Tolkien do actually have objective morality in their stories. It's just that Tolkien is intentionalist and Martin is consequentialist).

Perhaps Ned.  But, I think that even sympathetic characters in ASOIAF (eg Jon, Robb, Dany, Catelyn, Arya, obviously Tyrion) believe firmly in an eye for an eye as being the ethically correct course of conduct.  They'd probably draw the line at killing the women and children of the enemy, but the adult males would be executed. 

I think Martin also explores how realpolitik can backfire on those who practise it.   Tywin thought he was a shrewd Macchiavellian by killing the royal children, but all he did was sow fresh enmity.  Realpolitik drives Robert's attempt to murder Daenerys, but once the attempt fails, it sets in train a chain of circumstances which convert her from being an ineffectual enemy to a dangerous one.  Mercy (such as Jon shows to the wildlings) can sometimes be a pragmatic course of action.

Tolkien, however, would want mercy to be pursued, regardless of whether it is pragmatic.

Edited by SeanF

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, SeanF said:

I think Martin also explores how realpolitik can backfire on those who practise it.   Tywin thought he was a shrewd Macchiavellian by killing the royal children, but all he did was sow fresh enmity.  Realpolitik drives Robert's attempt to murder Daenerys, but once the attempt fails, it sets in train a chain of circumstances which convert her from being an ineffectual enemy to a dangerous one.  Mercy (such as Jon shows to the wildlings) can sometimes be a pragmatic course of action.

I'd say that Martin is still a consequentialist, in the sense that he judges morality by outcome, not by intent. A major problem with consequentialism is that it is often unclear what the consequences of an action will be - which Martin does recognise, through the examples you give.

To put it another way, a situation where Sauron captures Frodo and the Ring would be a disastrous outcome. Martin (and Denethor. And Saruman) would pin the blame on Gandalf. Tolkien wouldn't. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

I'd say that Martin is still a consequentialist, in the sense that he judges morality by outcome, not by intent. A major problem with consequentialism is that it is often unclear what the consequences of an action will be - which Martin does recognise, through the examples you give.

To put it another way, a situation where Sauron captures Frodo and the Ring would be a disastrous outcome. Martin (and Denethor. And Saruman) would pin the blame on Gandalf. Tolkien wouldn't. 

And, that's a hard one, because it is so counter-intuitive to send Frodo into Mordor.  Tolkien himself acknowledged that in the real world, the allies would have sought to use the Ring against Frodo. In the position of Galadriel, I know that I would have taken up Frodo's offer.  And, I would certainly have agreed with Denethor.

I'm sure I would not have sanctioned the murder of Elia's children - there were viable alternatives after all.  But, the assassination of Daenerys?  That would be a much tougher call.  I admired Ned's stand, and found the thought of it disgusting, but the pragmatic arguments for killing her were very compelling.  But (assuming she plays some role in the defeat of the Others) the consequence would have been the extinction of life on Westeros.

The consequence of Bilbo's showing  mercy to Gollum was that Sauron could be defeated - but that need not have occurred.  For reasons of His own, God might have intended Sauron to win this round.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a magnificent and massively interesting and engaging thread. Everyone who has contributed to this thread is goddamn glorious.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
39 minutes ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

My review of Ralph Bakshi's 1978 adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.

Did he ever do a sequel, post Helm's Deep?

Mostly, I enjoyed Jackson's version, other than the awful portrayal of Denethor, the green soap bubbles of death, and the editing of the last hour of ROTK.

As someone who usually reads the books first, before coming to a film or TV adaptation, I always have to ask if I'm being fair in my criticism.  My interpretation of a character is not necessarily the producer's.  What works in a book does not necessarily work in a visual medium.

Sometimes, though, I'm just left scratching my head why they did what they did  (my reaction to the last two seasons of A Game of Thrones, for example).

Share this post


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

Did he ever do a sequel, post Helm's Deep?

Mostly, I enjoyed Jackson's version, other than the awful portrayal of Denethor, the green soap bubbles of death, and the editing of the last hour of ROTK.

As someone who usually reads the books first, before coming to a film or TV adaptation, I always have to ask if I'm being fair in my criticism.  My interpretation of a character is not necessarily the producer's.  What works in a book does not necessarily work in a visual medium.

Sometimes, though, I'm just left scratching my head why they did what they did  (my reaction to the last two seasons of A Game of Thrones, for example).

Bakshi ran out of money, and despite the film actually making a profit (not a trivial thing for a non-Disney animation in 1978), no-one gave him the money for a sequel.

Rankin-Bass (who had already done The Hobbit in 1977) did a sort of spiritual sequel to Bakshi, with their Return of the King in 1980. Rankin-Bass is *really* different to Bakshi though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've only ever watched the Bakshi film once, and have never felt the need to revisit it. I remember finding a lot of it very strange. One strange thing  being Saruman's name changing to Aruman halfway through the film. His treatment of Sam is pretty much an insult. His Frodo actually fares better in contrast to Jackson's doe-eyed passive protagonist who seems to fall over everytime danger is near. It's interesting that Jackson actually borrows quite directly from this film in some cases: the ProudFEET moment is almost identical, the initial meeting with the Nazgul comes from Bakshi rather than the book. I also think Bakshi's orcs are better than Jackson's as they feel like an actual danger instead of just being easy-slayed fodder for cool action scenes. It's a very messy adaptation though, cramming too much content into 2 hours. Most of the characters are underdeveloped, the animation is mixed and limited in a lot of ways. If I remember... Frodo and Sam basically vanish from the last third of the film, if not before then. Wormtongue also looks... peculiar... if memory serves.

As for Rankin-Bass' conclusion. It's certainly something. 

Where there's a whip, there's a way...  

Edited by Ser Drewy
grammar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, Ser Drewy said:

I've only ever watched the Bakshi film once, and have never felt the need to revisit it. I remember finding a lot of it very strange. One strange thing  being Saruman's name changing to Aruman halfway through the film.

Saruman becoming Aruman isn't a stupid idea - it means the audience doesn't get Saruman and Sauron confused. Problem is, half of the time he is Saruman, and half of the time he's Aruman.

Anyway, as a follow-up, I've finished off my reviews of the old animated Tolkien movies:

The 1977 Rankin-Bass Hobbit

The 1980 Rankin-Bass Return of the King

Where there's a whip, there's a way...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

Saruman becoming Aruman isn't a stupid idea - it means the audience doesn't get Saruman and Sauron confused. Problem is, half of the time he is Saruman, and half of the time he's Aruman.

Anyway, as a follow-up, I've finished off my reviews of the old animated Tolkien movies:

The 1977 Rankin-Bass Hobbit

The 1980 Rankin-Bass Return of the King

Where there's a whip, there's a way...

Quote

W

Were Rankin-Bass just taking the piss with ROTK.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×