Thursday, April 28, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
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.
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?
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
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
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).
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
Thursday, April 21, 2011
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?
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
I was curious if you guess thought the same way, or differently.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Lineage is important in Lord of the Rings, just from character’s introductions (I am…. son of....). In LOTR (as established in class), Tolkien plays with the idea of noble lineage determining who a character is and what he/she is capable of. This idea fits perfectly with Aragorn, but not so well with characters like Sam.What do these inconsistencies reveal about Tolkien’s view on lineage? Is Tolkien incorporating something like the phrase “it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from” as another theme to his works? And how does it relate to the time period? (Post-World War II?) I see this play on lineage as a well-timed encouragement towards equality. What do you guys think (just to take this a step further than we did in class)?
As a somewhat related addition: Doesn’t this play on lineage kind of happen with Balin in King Arthur, as well? King Authur is the only one who can pull the sword from the stone, yet Balin is the one who can pull a sword (different sword) from a sheath. I do not think Balin has noble lineage, yet he accomplishes great feats (although many misfortunes).
Thursday, April 14, 2011
1) Why did Tolkien emphasize music in the creation of Middle-earth?
2) Who are the Eldar? Are they related to the Valar?
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
The Prose Edda Freewrite (4/12)
As I read the Introduction by Jesse Byock (xxv), I was very surprised by the direct usage of Tolkien with regard to the naming of his Dwarves in comparison to The Prose Edda. It seems that Tolkien simply “cut and pasted” this list of names straight into The Hobbit. The name “Gandalf” is also mentioned in the list of Dwarven names, but for some reason, in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Gandalf is a member of a much more powerful race. Also in The Prose Edda, unlike other mythologies, the home of the Gods can be reached by mortals. This is also somewhat true in The Lord of the Rings, as mortals such as Frodo are able to travel to the Undying Lands. This marks a significant difference from Greek and Roman mythology, as Mount Olympus was forbidden to mortals. In both The Prose Edda, and The Lord of the Rings, there is definitely a common theme of a “Final Battle.” However, there are very stark differences between the two variations of this theme. In The Prose Edda, the Final Battle of Ragnarok will take place, pitting the Gods against the Evil beings and monsters of the World, such as the Midgard Serpent and Fenriswolf. However, there is no hope of victory, as all will be destroyed. Then the world will become new again. In the Lord of the Rings, the battle against Sauron at the end of the Third Age is the “Final Battle,” but in this case there is a very minute hope for victory and the defeat of Evil.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Friday, April 8, 2011
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
"Because the Fellowship is burdened with the responsibility of bearing the Ring and because its presence attracts evil, the greatest threat to the Fellowship and its mission comes not from without but within. The hero must realize that he can become a monster. The two books of the Fellowship trace the process of this realization: the first book centers on the presentation of evil as external and physical, requiring physical heroism to combat it; and the second book centers on the presentation of evil as internal and spiritual, requiring a spiritual heroism to combat it. The hero matures by coming to understand the character of good and evil—specifically, by descending into an underworld and then ascending into an overworld, a natural one in the first book and a supernatural one in the second. These two levels correspond to the two levels—Germanic and Christian—of Beowulf and The Hobbit. For Frodo, as for Beowulf and Bilbo, the ultimate enemy is himself." -Jane ChanceI hadn't thought to draw the comparison between Beowulf and Frodo in the sense that they have to battle with their own potential. As we've discussed, the text of Beowulf doesn't offer much insight into the character's inner workings, but I often wonder-- why would he decide to battle the dragon on his own? Was he considering his reputation, looking for glory, or falling prey to greed? We can't know for sure. However, this quote does point out a delicate balance that Tolkien incorporated into the Fellowship several times, starting with Boromir's moment of failure and extending to Frodo's greed in Mount Doom: the greatest danger always comes from within, from people seeking their own gain or succumbing to their own failings.