Friday, May 6, 2011

Pub Groups

About the pub groups. I want to comment on how great my experience was with them. Our group was incredibly cohesive and I think we all looked forward to meeting, even though we seemed to hardly find the time.

I think that we've established that Tolkien has a lot of good things to say about fellowship and the forming of pub groups is an excellent way to manifest this theme in the class. I'm sure that not everyone had as positive an experience as we did, but I thought they were great. Thanks Merlyn and Sara for the awesome time. Don't forget that we still have to play laser tag sometime.

And thanks Dr. Donovan and Megan for the incredible class. You guys are great!

Creative Projects

I would just like to say that I was SO impressed with all of the creative projects. I was absolutely astounded by several of the projects, especially the musical ones. Morgan and Sarah did an incredible job and I would just like to congratulate the two of you on your wonderful work!

Community

During the wrap-up yesterday (so sad), discussion more than once turned towards the importance of fellowship and community. Other than being a point of nostalgia for our Tolkien seminar class, these themes resonate throughout every work we've read this semester and I consider them central to the entirety of the course.

I wanted to comment on how the friendships we've made throughout the semester show the inherent and true beauty of Tolkien's works and world that he created for all of us. Whether long time fan and avid reader, or newcomer to the lands of Middle-earth, every person can find their own comfortable place in Tolkien's landscape. It seems that all the Lord of the Rings readers share a common friendship even prior to coming in contact; meeting another is all it takes.

I feel that the sense of community in our seminar illustrates completely the success of Tolkien as a creative artist. Whether writer, poet, artist, songwriter, musician, or cinematographer, the ultimate goal should be to create works of art that draw people together onto common ground where friendships and communities can grow. In a world so full of discord and debate, these are all the more necessary.

Thanks everybody for such a great semester! I can honestly say that this class has positively impacted my life and I'm extremely grateful to have been a part of it.

"Na Seere" Song and Translation

“Na Seere”

Verse 1

Elvish: Astaldo ohtar na seere

English: O, valiant warrior be at peace

Elv: Mornié fifiisa ar kala

Eng: Darkness fades and the light shines

Elv: Mi ambar ilvarya ten lê.

Eng: In a world not saved for you.

Chorus

Elvish: Wili athan i Aear

English: Sail beyond the Sea

Elv: Na seere, a na seere.

Eng: Be at peace, o, be at peace.

Verse 2

Elvish: Kayla ne anduune eel

English: Illuminated by an evening star

Elv: Lîn nyaare ortas o marde saran

Eng: Your story rose with halls of stone

Elv: Eruseen lira nyaare yaara.

Eng: Where Men* sing of tales of old.

Chorus

Elvish: Wili athan i Aear

English: Sail beyond the Sea

Elv: Na seere, a na seere.

Eng: Be at peace, o, be at peace.

"Leaf by Niggle" Freewrite

I wrote on "Leaf by Niggle" as a commentary towards being a creative artist.

"Leaf by Niggle" offers some insight to Tolkien's beliefs on what it means to be a creative artist. The focus is the relationship between artist and artwork and how creation intangibly binds them together. Much of the time, being an artist equates to also being highly misunderstood. In "Leaf by Niggle," Niggle works unceasingly on his Tree, and yet he never gets the recognition for his work. This translates to almost every artist who puts a certain amount of their heart and soul into a piece, only to have the work misunderstood or under appreciated. "Leaf by Niggle" also conveys how an artist work never truly ends and that the cycle of creation continues even after the artist has gone from the physical world. Niggle never "finishes" his Tree, and when he seems close, another detail catches his attention. This continues up until his "death," but even after he still continues to live and work through his artwork. This can translate to artist (postmortem) whose artwork still persists.

Synthesis Paper

I am doing my synthesis paper on the theme of transformation because it is present in most (if not all) of the works we have read in some way. Transformation has always been the most inspiring and diversified theme to me. I think it is a perfect topic to synthesis all of these works in a specific way and express how I feel about Tolkien and his works. There are, however, many other themes that can achieve this goal. Which theme(s) have you been most influenced by/interested in/inspired by? Are these theme(s) or other interesting ideas the topic of you synthesis paper? Basically, what have you decided to write about and why? What is Tolkien's legacy to you in one sentence (your thesis)?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

THE LANCELOT SONG!!! (plus other tunes of geeky brilliance)

Here is the link to the brilliant song "His Name Is Lancelot" from Spamalot. The sound quality isn't the best, so the subsequent link is the lyrics!

His Name is Lancelot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BU98OlAjP2Y&playnext=1&list=PL518F639B63DC1EB1



And now....MORE SONGS!! Sit back and enjoy!

They're Taking the Hobbits to Isengard! ....just classic. Amazing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE-1RPDqJAY


The Mysterious Ticking Noise. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY6mpaVEaTg

That's all I can think of at the moment. I'll comment with more links later if I can think of any. I was tempted to post the video of Elijah Wood doing Numa Numa on The Wiggles, but that might have been a little too disturbing...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The End :(

Since we didn't have any readings this week, I just wanted to talk about how much I enjoyed this class. I've missed taking literature classes since I've started college. I love classes where I can have a good discussion, or even argument, about a book. I hadn't read the LotR series before this class and now I am so glad I have. I have a much greater appreciation for Tolkien and his works. I thought it was so interesting to see all of the things that influenced him and his writings. I also want to read them again because I feel like I missed so much!
So basically, this was a fun class, and I'll definitely miss having a place to get all my nerd out. :)

Yay

Yeah, the creative projects were amazing. It really surprises me, and also makes me happy, that from Tolkien's world we can all create so much more than what he wrote. It is never ending... all the stories that could be written about all the different characters and places. I think his work will be continue to be popular for a very long time, partly because of this. Even though it was very hard for him to end the story of the LOTR and eventually let go completely of the project, and sure it would make him extremely happy that us as students are continuing to create more life from his world.

Creative Projects

I just wanted to say that everyone did an AWESOME job on their creative project! I was blown away by how creative our class is :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

"Leaf by Niggle" Freewrite!

Here is my freewrite from last week on "Leaf by Niggle." My prompt was writing about the story as a personal/autobiographical commentary.

I feel like if Tolkien was using "Leaf by Niggle" to express some sort of personal/autobiographical commentary, that it would make him sound a tad pompous. Not to a point where I stop respecting him though. I just feel like Niggle gets really frustrated in the beginning of the story because not everyone appreciates his painting. In the end though, I think it would be very interesting if this story was autobiographical because we see Niggle get sucked into his own work. I think we would all like to feel like Tolkien was so involved in creating Middle-earth that at times he too may have felt like he was there, just like we feel like we are there when we read "The Lord of the Rings." I think part of this comes from how detailed Tolkien gets when he writes. His descriptions are so in-depth and I thought it was really cute that the special thing about Niggle's paintings was how detailed his leaves are.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fellowship

Throughout The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and much of Tolkien's works, the theme of fellowship is pervasive. The quests which Tolkien's characters pursue are communal ones, undertaken with friends, without which friends they could not succeed.

The loneliest characters we meet come to bad ends; friendships are found in unlikely places; different ethnic and racial peoples are expected to band together in order to fight evil effectively; killing your best friend, even on accident, creates a grief that "never fades." Many of the medieval texts we dealt with also contribute to this idea (consider groups of knights and the comitatus).

And, of course, Tolkien himself had many close friends among the Inklings and TCBS who greatly influenced him.

Dr. Donovan and I strove to illustrate this important theme in our class through pub groups, in-class groupwork, blog discussion, and encouraging y'all to attend Hobbit Society functions. (Remember, even the teaching relationship between Dr. Donovan and myself is a communal one!)

What examples or anecdotes--either textual, or from your actual experience in the class--can you share to support (or contradict) (or complicate) this theme? Why is it so pervasive? Is it even important to focus on?

Revisiting The Lord of the Rings

Now that we have come to the end of our assigned readings, it may be helpful and even fun to revisit The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, where it all "started"! We certainly wouldn't be having a class devoted to Tolkien without these groundbreaking works--but then again, we wouldn't be having this class if this was the only thing Tolkien contributed, either!

What connections can you make from our readings--especially the more recent ones--to LOTR that we haven't made already (or might have forgotten)? Why do you think Dr. Donovan and I assigned the non-Tolkien readings that we did (and what did such readings contribute toward your understanding of Tolkien)?

Finally, do you think your perception of Tolkien's "primary texts" (Hobbit and LOTR) has changed at all through what we have read and studied together?

Niggle's Mountains and Aslan's Country

Something Sam brought up in class today really interested me - it was the similarity between Tolkien's (seeming) portrayal of heaven in "Leaf by Niggle" and C.S. Lewis' portrayal of heaven ("Aslan's Country") in the Chronicles of Narnia. Basically, both conceptions of heaven involve very large, distant mountains. This could be because both authors loved nature, or it perhaps might just be the result of them spending time together, reading each other's works, and together building this sort of mountain-heaven concept. I personally love mountains and can imagine how they would both be attracted to using them in their works. But, I was wondering if there are any other stories/myths that somehow connect mountains with an afterlife/heaven, and why you think Lewis or Tolkien used this idea. Maybe mountains = higher elevation, which = closer to God? Or mountains are just a beautiful, intriguing, mysterious, even spiritual part of nature? Or perhaps they took the idea from somewhere else?

Leaf by Niggle

Post your freewrites on "Leaf by Niggle" here or feel free to discuss anything related to this text that we mentioned in class today or that you have thought about since our discussion.

Pseudonymity and Blogging

Now that our semester is almost over, I'd like to ask what you thought of working on the Blog for our class. What did you like most about the Blog discussions? What did you like least? Would you have preferred a regular threaded discussion list forum or simply an email listserv instead of the Blog? What did you think about the use of pseudonyms on the Blog? Did you enjoy the pseudonymity or would you prefer to have used your real name?

Endings

As we start winding toward the ending of this class, let's reflect on endings. We've read many works this semester and all of them have interesting endings, whether these be a single closure or multiple ones. Which ending of which work do you like the most and why?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What is a hero!?

So, I think the hardest part about Tuesday's debate was clearly defining "the truest form of a hero." I think it is important for hero's to have flaws because it makes them easier to relate to for us as an audience, however do these flaws take away from their heroism? What is "the truest form of a hero"?

Frodo vs Gawain?

I thought that it wasn't really accurate to compare Gawain to Frodo during the debate. Their quests are completely different and so are their motivations. I feel like Frodo's flaws come from being corrupted by the Ring while Gawain makes conscious decisions when he messes up. In the end though I will agree with Group 1's argument and say that they are both heroes, just in different ways.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reading beyond Tolkien

As we finish our course and head into a summer that might contain some new reading, what authors (other than Tolkien) will you be reading or would you recommend to others who enjoy Tolkien's work?

One of my personal favorites is Guy Gavriel Kay, a fantasy writer, who got started by helping Christopher Tolkien compile The Silmarillion. If you are looking for high fantasy to read, consider The Fionavar Tapestry by Kay. It makes me laugh and weep in some similar ways to Tolkien's texts.

Favorite, Most Thought-Provoking, and Least Helpful Texts

If you had to pick one text from our syllabus this term as your favorite, what would it be and why did you pick that one? What does it mean to you? How will you carry that text with you beyond this course?

In a different vein, what text did you find the most thought-provoking and enlightening about our topic, whether or not it was your favorite? Why this text?

Conversely, which text did you find least helpful or interesting in thinking about Tolkien's work? What forms the basis for your reaction to this text? Personal analysis or bias, lack of time spent on it in class or in your own study, difficulty of text?

Understanding Influences

Does an understanding of Tolkien's medieval sources influence or change your understanding of Tolkien's fictional works? Is it important to study such influences in a class such as ours? Why or why not?

Comparing Tolkien's works with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

In the debate today, you discussed some similarities and differences between the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Tolkien's fictional works on Middle-earth. Can you think of other  parallels between the Middle English poem and Tolkien's 20th century fiction? What about other differences? Do you think Sir Gawain influenced Tolkien's works or thinking in any way?

Some additional thoughts on Gawain as a hero

So I was a part of Group 1 in our debate today, arguing that Gawain is indeed a true hero. I don't want to prolong this argument/debate (haha), but Group 2's closing statement and overall argument brought up some interesting counterpoints in my mind. Is hesitation really a sign of weakness and the destruction of someone's heroism? I don't think so. If this was true, then wouldn't Aragorn's heroism take a blow when he hesitates about what road to take after the fellowship leaves Lorien? When he hesitates in his decision to follow Frodo or the Uruk-Hai? Or to throw the Bible in here...If hesitation is a bad thing, Jesus' reputation might take a blow because He prays to the Father the night before His crucifixion, "Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will." Jesus isn't entirely gung-ho about dying - He asks God not to make him do it. I'd say that's a little bit of hesitation, but it in no way makes Jesus' final act any less heroic. I think hesitation is a natural human trait that doesn't make anyone any less of a hero, and Gawain's first flinch simply allows us a view of his humanity before he steals himself for death.

Group 2's argument about Gawain acting super noble in public situations and then being less moral in private was an interesting one, however. Feel free to expand here because I'd love to hear more thoughts on that subject!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tuesday Freewrite

King Arthur Freewrite


“A Sword Makes a King.”


When comparing Malory’s tales of King Arthur and his Knights with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, similarities abound. Because of my fascination with medieval weapons, I am immediately drawn to the tale of “The Sword in the Stone.” Here, Malory (Merlin) anoints Arthur as “...Rightwise King, born of all England...” because he was able to draw the sword from the stone. This theme is also present in The Lord of the Rings, as we see Aragorn decide to march to Mordor with the Fellowship. When he makes this decision, we see Narsil reforged into Anduril, thus marking Aragorn as returning to his rightful place on the throne of Gondor. Why were objects, weapons especially, used to symbolize kingship, royalty, or status in the medieval ages? Of course, there is the answer that war was prevalent in those days, and a man’s character could often (and was often) measured by his skill and prowess on the battlefield. So often, (especially in Fantasy literature) a great king or hero coming into their power is marked by the receipt or finding of a marvelous or mythic weapon.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Friendship

In King Arthur, many friendships end in wars between friends or with one friend killing another friend. Lancelot kills Sir Gareth (unknowingly) and Sir Gawain (indirectly). Lancelot and Arthur must fight. Round Table knights must fight Round Table knights. Most of these friendships are broken because of feelings of revenge (Gawain avenging Gareth), losing reputation (Arthur cannot let Lancelot get away with sleeping with his queen after a big scene has been made), or just plain stupidity (overreacting to situations because the characters have no common sense). I feel like friendship is much more meaningful in Tolkien’s works. Turin accidentally kills his best friend Beleg, but it is not like Beleg was provoking him as Sir Gawain was to Lancelot. True friendship examples: Frodo and Sam, Legolas and Gimli (and Aragorn), Merry and Pippin, etc. Unlike in King Arthur, most friendships actually stick in Tolkien’s works. Revenge, a lack of reasonability, and reputation are not as important as friendship in Tolkien’s works. Take Legolas and Gimli for example: 1. Legolas doesn’t try to kill Gimli to avenge the Elves because dwarves (in general) woke up the Balrog. 2. They make reasonable decisions obviously 3. They don’t care what other elves or dwarves, trees, etc think about their friendship (reputation is irrelevant).

These three things that break friendships in King Arthur (can you think of more friendship breakers?) are viewed as irrelevant in Tolkien’s works. Tolkien is refuting what is important in King Arthur and suggesting importance in the exact opposite (friendship).

Morality Conflict

In King Arthur, moral conflicts are prevalent. Sir Lancelot, for example, must fight Sir Gawain, his friend. Lancelot also disguises himself as one of another nation just to fight the men of the Round Table.
King Arthur must wage war against Sir Lancelot after "finding out" (like he didn't know before) that Sir Lancelot was dishonorable with Arthur's wife. Sure Lancelot was dishonorable and even denied it at later times, but I still think there were moral issues involved. Arthur and Lancelot were, afterall, friends and very respectable to each other (or maybe more than friends?).

On the contrary, Tolkien tries his best to avoid these moral conflicts in his works. Even from the beginning, Tolkien drew the line of Good versus Evil (Manwe versus Melkor). Moreover, most battles are distinctly separated between the good (elves, men, dwarves, hobbits) and the evil (trolls, orcs, balrogs, etc). Even when men are evil, Tolkien makes it a point to confirm that they are corrupted in some way.

Tolkien includes even more epic battles in his works, yet he still is able to omit this morality conflict (something he, personally, did not like as a veteran). To Tolkien, is this morality omission yet another correction to King Arthur (King Arthur as it should have been)? Also, do you think such an omission makes LOTR (and Tolkien's other works or just works in general) better or worse?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tuesday's Freewrite

The element that I chose was fate vs. freewill in Malory, especially regarding Balin's story. In a way it reminded me a lot of Turin's story in the Simarillion, but in a way it didn't. It came across to me as Balin was being more led by fate... because he is cursed from the beginning by taking the sword. After the first death, as a reader I knew that the curse was true and strong and would stay with him until his death. Also the fact that Merlin was the one to predict the curse made it more believable. In Turin's story I feel like he as a character was more able to control his fate at times, thus making it hard to decipher whether it was fate or freewill guiding him in certain instances. Also as a character I feel like Turin was more developed, leading to a more interesting and complicated plot and character conflict.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Honorable Affair?

Lancelot has a continuing affair with the Queen but still remains the most honorable knight that ever lived. How is this possible? He's sleeping with the King's wife! You can't get much more dishonorable than that.

Also, when Arthur is told about the affair and Lancelot runs away to a different country, Arthur doesn't even mention Guinevere. He just laments that he lost his best knight. To me, this seems like the King didn't really appreciate the Queen or love her in the way she would like. Is this why she chooses to (or lets Lancelot woo her into) sleep with Lancelot? Does Arthur not valuing or honoring the Queen as she deserves make it acceptable for her to seek a "better" relationship with Lancelot?

LOTR Remix

Here's a LOTR song/video that I came across while perusing Youtube.

Have fun!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJfGnqKoXYY&feature=feedu

Friends

One thing that was brought up in class today I found really interesting. The fact that Aragorn seems to have better friends than Arthur, but that Aragorn's friends aren't human while Arthur's are. I wonder if that was some kind of statement by Tolkien about men, or maybe he was just bringing in more of the faerie element to his story. I don't know. Thoughts?
Some questions:

Why does rape result in the birth of a king? Why does the figure we so often compare to Gandalf concoct such a scheme?

How can Lancelot have an affair with the queen and claim loyalty to Arthur? Why doesn't somebody tell Arthur sooner? Why is it the "bad guy" who finally reports them? How can knights under King Arthur side with anyone besides the king in such a case?

Why is there so much sex?

These days the Catholic Church seems opposed to any sexual activity besides procreational intercourse between a husband and wife. Mallory was Catholic.

Were the tenants of the Catholic Church different in the fifteenth century? Did Mallory have a subtle message about such things that I missed? Was Mallory unconcerned with writing "morality?" That is, was the book simply amoral? Or was Mallory simply keeping with the spirit of the French book?

The moral and spiritual elements seem so opposed to Tolkien's work.