Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thoughts on "Kinship"

     Today in class the theme of "Kinship" was mentioned; this stuck out to me because it seemed very different from other people's thoughts on the themes so far in the Silmarillion, but it is a huge part of Tolkien's mythology. Disagreements between kin often lead to more ferocious and devastating conflict than a fight between unrelated forces: Melkor is able to wreak such havoc and cause such personal sorrow to the Valar because he was one of them; Feanor and the Noldor come to great sorrow and loss because of in-fighting, sibling rivalry, and the like.
     All of Tolkien's Middle-earth works emphasize the importance of kin and more specifically of lineage (which we touched on briefly). The Appendices at the end of The Lord of the Rings and the Tables of the Silmarillion contain several family trees; these don't simply serve to allow the reader to remember names (although they can help with that), they show the significance of family ties and allow readers a deeper understanding of the repercussions of certain characters' actions and the reasons why those actions affect other characters in particular. Lineage is also a source and element of myth within the texts: for example the Dwarves' belief that the Seven Fathers are reincarnated through children who bear their names and thus continue to be great leaders and heroes of their people.
     Are there other examples of kin and/or lineage ties that stick out to you as important in Tolkien's works? Where may have this emphasis on blood relationships and family history come from, for Tolkien?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Melkor and Subcreation?

Discussion Topic from Tuesday's Group Exercise from Nathan

One thing I noticed evident in the conflict between Illuvatar and Melkor (not sure how to add proper accents in email) was that it hinged on Melkor's ultimate desire to create his own world and dominate it. For me, this immediately brought to mind Tolkien's concept of "Sub-creation" and the way he claims he is a merely a part of the changing, growing mythology discussed in "Mythopoeia". I found it interesting that the reason Melkor fell from the grace of the Valar, was that he was trying to do the work of God. He was entirely unsatisfied as a "Sub-creator" and obviously needed to have more control. However, in pursuing this goal Melkor even lost his ability to "sub-create", in the sense that he was no long able to synthesis ideas on his own. Instead he could only mock the work of the other Valar, in anger and jealously. My question, I suppose, is whether or no you and the rest of the class see this parallel as valid and if so what are your thoughts? It seems to me almost like a hidden warning to other "Sub-creators" to remain as such, and not to try to take over the primary creation of God.

Silmarillion Question on Good and Evil

Question from Tuesday's Group Exercise from Kerii

What is the purpose of creating a good v. evil dichotomy? Why not, like many other myths, create light/dark good/evil conflict from the previous existence of darkness? What is the point? Is there one?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Resources on Public website

Go to our course website and click on any resource on any of the pages under Links. Write a comment here about what link you explored, what you found there, what you learned that you did not know, and what might be helpful for your classmates. The website can be accessed through the link on the right side of this blog.

If you find any dead or broken links, please send me an email message.

Also, feel free to contribute any links in the comments that you know about and that might be interesting to your classmates.

Features of Mythologies

While definitions vary, most real world myths typically:
1) are regarded as accounts of a remote past;
2) explain origins of life, the universe, and the natural world by means of logic and design;
3) evolve from the actions of supernatural or superhuman figures;
4) establish authority for social and cultural institutions, such as governing structures, racial divisions among people, and religious practices;
5) reflect basic behavioral structures related to values, morals, or attitudes, such as good vs. evil, light vs. dark, and rich vs. poor; and
6) evoke the contemplation of the sacred through mystery, ritual, or transcendent experience.

In what ways do the mythological elements of Tolkien's world as described in The Silmarillion or Tolkien's other Middle-earth fiction reflect any of these features?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Unfamiliar Items from "Tolkien's Middle Ages"

Post your research on one of the items with which your were unfamiliar in your section from Snyder's chapter “Tolkien’s Middle Ages” as a comment to this post.

Mythopoeia Freewrite


It seems to me that in a lot of his writing, and especially Mythopoeia, Tolkien is making the point that he believes people are FIRST creative and imaginative, but through time and age become more jaded and scientific. So where one might initially see a star as living silver, he will later see the star for what it really is. I think through his own myth-making, Tolkien was really trying to get children to stay innocent and imaginative and to get grown-ups to return to that natural state. To stop seeing stars as ball of gas and start seeing Earendil.. to stop seeing constellations as patterns in space  and to start seeing them as stories. The earth should be a story, the stars and their patterns should be a story. The stories of peoples long gone or who maybe never existed. The stories imagined or retold by people long gone as well. Stories meant to be told and retold to capture a sense of awe and wonder and keep everybody innocent and childlike in their ways of thinking about the world. Not letting war and strife disenchant them from human life and love, not letting the news scare them, not letting their experiences dictate their present and future. To dream is to live?? It’s like…. the real world happened to the Hobbits who were once hidden away in the Shire. But the sense that one gets from reading his works is that Tolkien wished they could have just stayed in the Shire and maintained their innocent happiness, remaining untouched by evil and unaltered by cruelty. And yet.. Frodo was permanently scarred. Frodo is like Tolkien… a man (hobbit) in love with England (the Shire) who had to let go of his innocence to fight evil in the Great War (or destroy the Ring in Mordor) and who returned home forever changed. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Favorite line in "Mythopoiea"

What is your favorite line or a couple of lines from Tolkien's poem "Mythopoeia"? What is so appealing about the line(s) to make it your favorite?

Compare Medievalism and Mythmaking

Compare and contrast the concepts of medievalism as set out by Snyder or others and mythmaking or mythopoeia that we discussed earlier. Do these concepts reflect similar functions or ideas? How do they differ from each other? Is mythopoeia more all encompassing or can medievalism be equally all encompassing?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

On Culture Relatability as a Necessity

There was a discussion on the necessity of a sense of "cultural relate-ability" for a myth to be both a myth and successful. I aim to argue that this is not necessary, but helpful in the creation, success, and permanency of a myth. While I would not be remiss as to remove this entirely, I find it hard to believe that a myth requires it. When I say "cultural relate-ability" what I mean is the idea wherein a myth success relies on the foundation structure that its audience understands cultural norms, ideas and identities that were common at the origin of the myth. Make no mistake, I think that this was important at the start of a myth, and that these cultural identities shifted to match its intended audience at the time, as per the norm of most verbal traditions, but in some mythologies, it is unnecessary.

I will take note of Native American mythologies, which mainly focus on the stories of divinity as happening between the anthropomorphic animals and nature that lies around them. One of my favorite myths from this tradition revolves around a snake and a hare and the gods. In this story, the defenseless snake is given fangs and a poison after a compassionate god takes pity upon the snake being beaten by the hare continuously.

Now, this myth is interesting to me because it doesn't rely on the same cultural identities and norms to make sense and to be a mythological tradition that continues to this day. I believe anyone can understand the myth without being lost, since it appeals to human nature than a socially constructed abstract concept that justifies certain mimetic ideas. In short, while relate-ability is necessary, it can stem from both culture and human nature to be successful, and neither replaces or outdoes the other.