Thursday, March 31, 2011

As we continue to discuss the importance of treasure in Beowulf, I am constantly reminded of Smaug's horde in The Hobbit. Treasure plays an enormous role in both stories, both as a goal for the protagonists and heroes and as a bane. The stolen treasure of the Dwarves was more important to Thorin than peace between the Lonely Mountain and its neighbors, and this stance cost him his life in the end. While Beowulf was mortally wounded by the dragon itself while protecting his people and kingdom, the allure of the dragon's horde must be taken into consideration. If there had been no horde, would Beowulf have still attempted to face the dragon alone? We will never know...

Overall Impression of "Beowulf"

I'm curious as to what you're impressions of "Beowulf" were. I didn't enjoy it all that much, but I'm interested to know why you liked it (if any of you did). The character of Beowulf seemed a little too cocky and self-assured to me. Maybe that was valued in their culture, but I find it very off-putting. Beowulf can be compared to Aragorn because they are both good fighters and become kings, but Aragorn is much more likable because he is so humble. Does this make Aragorn a better king than Beowulf?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Today in our discussion, we talked about the different ways in which our perception of "Elves" has changed throughout history and from culture to culture. In Beowulf, Elves are perceived as among the evil races of ghosts, ogres, and monsters. Dr. Donovan also brought up the interesting concept of separating Elves into two categories; Good Elves and Dark Elves. If any of you have read any of the Forgotten Realms books by R.A. Salvatore, you will be familiar with this race of Dark Elves. These are the Drow, the evil race of Elves that lives below ground, and are affected adversely by light. They are an evil and corrupt race, venturing above ground only during the cover of night to raid and plunder. I find the connection between Salvatore's Drow and Dr. Donovan's description of the Norse Dark Elves quite intriguing.

Age affects values?

The individualism constantly displayed in Beowulf reminds me of Eomer’s battle with Ugluk. I remember from LOTR that Eomer actually dismounted his horse and fought Ugluk one-on-one. I also think it is interesting that Eomer is young. By contrast, I cannot think of one time where Aragorn (older royalty) decides to fight alone unless he absolutely has to. The only time I recall Aragorn fighting somewhat alone is against the black riders at WhetherTop, but it is not like he had an army behind him (as Eomer did). It was brought up in class that Beowulf seems individualistic as a youth and then more open to collaboration in his attempt to protect his people in his older age. I feel like Beowulf fighting Grendel and Eomer fighting Ugluk alone (despite having armies to aid them) shows that pride and glory are important for younger men to have in these warrior societies (in both LOTR and Beowulf). As Beowulf gets older (and wiser) he becomes more similar to Aragorn. Despite the fact that they both make kingly transformations, I think that the older Beowulf and Aragorn are more open to working with others if it means a better chance to protect their people (or the world in LOTR). Instead of hard-earned glory and pride, it is more important for the success of their people (or good in LOTR). Youth = acting on pride? Age = Wisdom = collaboration overpowering pride?

Lord of the Rings vs. Beowulf

So, I'm kind of combining two of the main ideas that we did freewrites about in class today: "community and social groups" and "loyalty and honor". I think that it's interesting that Lord of the Rings seems to have more of an emphasis on loyalty whereas beowulf has it's emphasis on honor. I also think that this goes hand in hand with the theme of community in the stories. Lord of the Rings also emphasizes community more in my opinion. This would make sense that when emphasizing community, there is also emphasis on loyalty. When in a community, people need to be loyal and trust each other to get a job done. I think this is shown especially in the fellowship. They were a community with a single purpose. They were loyal to each other and trusted each other, and even though Frodo was the ring-bearer, the others in the fellowship played a huge part in helping him. However, in Beowulf, it seems that the individual is stressed more than the community. It also makes sense that when there is emphasis on honor, individualism is stressed. Even though Beowulf had his 15 men with him to help him, they didn't do anything but watch, until the very end when Wiglaf helped him with the dragon. The focus was really on the individual and what he could do rather than on the group.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Beowulf vs Frodo

So, one main difference between the Lord of the Rings and Beowulf that I noticed are who the antagonists are and how they act. Was anyone else really bothered by how arrogant Beowulf is? I mean, cool, you killed Grendel, but you don't have to brag about it. I think this is why people like Frodo and all of the other main characters in the Lord of the Rings better. They do what they do to help Middle-earth--not to prove how strong they are.

Fairy stories for adults?

Tolkien argues that fairy stories should be for adults as well.The original versions of modern fairy tales would support this view. The original version were much more gruesome than the Disney versions. For example, the original version of Cinderella included a lot more blood than the Disney version.

boudries

In classic fairy stories,magical creatures are either incorporated in the world of the main characters or have a separate world of their own. The boundary is usually unclear and only open to those chosen. Does this mean only specific people are worthy to see such a world. Does this reflect any ideas of how humans should be like to be worthy of special knowledge of such worlds.
Over the weekend, I read Beowulf and decided to watch the recent cartoon version (starring Angelina Jolie) just to compare it to the original story. I was pleasantly surprised with the movie and its connection with the original plot. While the film does deviate from the plot, the basic outline of the tale remains very similar. The main addition to the story is the inclusion of female interaction within. In the written tale, women play a very small role, but in modern film, the female aspect is greatly enlarged. Because it is a 21st century film, there is also a large amount of sexual content that is added to spice up the storyline. This seemed to be one of the largest deviations, and did work to change some aspects of the story drastically. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the movie, as I was expecting an abomination of a film. Perhaps for purists, this is a horrible interpretation, but I found that it told the majority of the story accurately while staying in tune with the original plot. Thoughts? Criticisms?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Eucatastrophe

One characteristic of a modern fairy-story we discussed briefly last week has to do with the "happy ending." Near the end of "On Fairy-stories," Tolkien discusses his idea of the eucatastrophe. Write about your thoughts on this idea, and how this idea relates to the concept of the happy ending. Are "eucatastrophe" and "happy ending" synonymous? Do modern fairy-stories and fantasy works of any medium tend to contain this idea of eucatastrophe, or of happy ending, or both? Or neither?

Nature of Heroism

How do you think Tolkien means us to define heroism within his created world of Middle-earth? Are his definitions of heroism multiple? Does he have a preference between the epic hero and the folktale hero? Are his definitions of what a hero is different from or similar to those of medieval authors such as the Beowulf-poet? Who is the MOST heroic character in Tolkien's works? Why that hero? Some of you have been talking about Sam as the real hero, and one of Tolkien's letters supports that definition. However, readers don't always have to agree with writers. What do you think?

What is Real?

In OFS, Tolkien discusses the concept of "real-life" by comparing products of the "Robot Age" with those of Faerie. For example, he questions how "motor-cars are more 'alive' than, say, centaurs or dragons." I too believe that is foolish to say that technology and science are "more real" than what the individual produces from his imagination and within his being. One of my favorite passages from this essay further emphasizes this idea:

"For my part, I cannot convince myself that the roof of Bletchley station is more 'real' than the clouds. And as an artefact I find it less inspiring than the legendary dome of heaven. The bridge to platform 4 is to me less interesting than Bifrost guarded by Heimdall with the Gjallarhorn. From the wildness of my heart I cannot exclude the question whether rail-way-engineers, if they had been brought up on more fantasy, might not have done better with all their abundant means than they commonly do. Fairy-stories might be, I guess, better Masters of Arts than the academic person..."

Can the boundary between what is real and what isn't real truly be defined? Or should it ever be defined?

Aragorn/Alf Comparison

I thought an interesting comparison between The Lord of the Rings and "Smith of Wootton Major" was the role of the "hidden king." In LOTR, Aragorn is the heir of Isildur and has long lived in the the North Kingdom as captain of the Dunedain, hiding his true identity from most. In "Smith," Alf is the king of Faery, but he lives a hidden life in the human world, working for and as the Master Cook. Both Aragorn and Alf are obviously unique from their counterparts: Aragorn as the heir of Numenor and Alf as an integral part of Faery. Both are incredibly humble despite wielding exceptional power: Aragorn often checks his own desires in order to serve others, and Alf is submissive to Nokes despite Nokes's pride and deceitfullness. And both are full of justice: Aragorn in the ruling of his land and Alf in the way he deals with Nokes at the end of the story.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Objects suggest Audience?

In The Hobbit, the Arkenstone (the most significant item) is unselfishly given up for peace – a positive gesture. In Smith, the star is given up by Smith so that others can enjoy it – a positive gesture. Both the Arkenstone and the star are items that symbolize concepts on the good (as in not evil) spectrum and are given up unselfishly. In LOTR, the ring is extremely difficult to give up (excluding Bombadil); its bearer wants to use its power selfishly and for evil purposes, an extreme contrast to Smith and the Hobbit. The pattern I am seeing here is that when the content is dark and is obviously intended for adults (such as LOTR), Tokien’s most significant object symbolizes evil and provokes selfishness. When the content is lighter and is intended for children (such as the Hobbit and Smith [Smith may be intended for children, since Tolkien gives children so much credit]) the most significant objects symbolizes good intentions and provoke unselfishness. Even though Tolkien throws in adult content into his children stories (like in the Hobbit), does the way he characterize these objects hint at his primary audience (children)? Simply put, do the significant objects Tolkien depicts suggest his intended audience for his works?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I am unsure of the dates of publication when comparing Tolkien's "On Fairy Stories" and C.S. Lewis's "Chronicles of Narnia," but it seems that many of the principles and rules outlined by Tolkien in "OFS" are closely followed by Lewis in his creation of Narnia. If "OFS" did indeed precede Narnia, was this completely coincidental or was Lewis intentionally (or unconsciously) adhering to many of Tolkien's concepts? Thoughts?

Tolkien and Lewis Similarities

So, I know there are a lot of similarities between the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, but in class today a couple were brought up that I found really interesting. This idea of Faerie, the magical land I guess you could call it, is a huge part of both of their writings. I think it's really interesting that people cannot really choose to enter this realm and then they can't really choose to leave it or go back to it later. To some extent, Smith was able to in Smith of Wooton Major because he travelled to this land several times. However, it was not his choice to get the ability to go in the first place. The star was given to him because he was meant to have it or something. And when he gives up the star, he will never be able to return to Faerie. It is out of his hands and he's done there. In the Chronicles of Narnia as well, the children who go to Narnia don't choose to or mean to really. They were just chosen for some reason. And when they are sent back home, they have no choice in when that is or for how long. Sometimes they get to come back and sometimes they've learned all they can, and again, it's out of their hands.

I think the most interesting thing is that it seems to be a theme that only certain people are picked to venture into the land of Faerie, and usually they are not obvious choices. Smith says that when he picks Tim, that he is not the most obvious choice. This is true too in the Chronicles of Narnia. The 4 children are not an obvious choice to go in and fight a great battle, and especially not to win it. It seems like people are chosen to go to Faerie based on how it will help them to grow and be better equipped for living in their own world. I think Lewis might have said that at some point, that they had learned all they could from Narnia and now they were ready to go and live in their world. I don't know, just some intersting ideas surrounding Faerie and how both authors used them.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Definitions: Faerie vs. Fairy

This is in response to Maeglin's post about cool definitions.

Throughout the entire Tree and Leaf essay, Tolkien makes the distinction between Faerie and fairy. I never knew this existed...I always thought that Faerie was just a more awesome, older way of spelling fairy. However, Tolkien separates the two into place vs. being. Faerie almost always refers to the "Perilous Realm", a world of confusion, darkness, and trickery in which primordial magic reigns supreme. Fairy is the subjective term, dependent on cultural interpretation and closely related to the word elf.

I'm interested in modern literature that actually explores the realm of Faerie as a literal and unique place. I highly recommend Tad Williams' War of the Flowers. Does anyone else have a Faerie story they want to recommend? :)

Choices and Consequences- Aragorn!

I decided to write an Aragorn-themed response to Dr. Donovan's post, since Aragorn is my favorite ever :) . This feels a little like those "What If...?" history novels...

I first want to address the #10 scenario, in which Gandalf, rather than Aragorn, leads the Company through the Paths of the Dead. The first obvious fact is that Tolkien would have needed some seriously clever writing to get around the fact that the Dead were bound to Isildur, and thus exclusively to Isildur's heir. If they had somehow sworn allegiance to Gandalf, that oath would not have been fulfilled. Further, the army of the dead (along with the other reinforcements that accompany Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli on the black ships) acts as a saving grace at the end of the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Without this victory, the end of the Company's story, particularly the attack of Mordor, would have unfolded in a completely different way. Lastly, being an Aragorn fan, I can't help but point out that Gandalf has had many moments of glory up to this point-- so it's Aragorn's turn to act kingly and awesome!

The second scenario is #14, in which Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli accompany the hobbits back to the Shire. This would have spared us the heartbreaking segment where the Fellowship is broken for good...I admit, I never wanted the Fellowship to end! However, I think that such a scenario would somehow have involved Aragorn giving up the crown of Gondor; how could he be King of Gondor but operate out of the Shire, or leave Gondor right after the coronation? Even more important, though, is the fact that the Scouring of the Shire would have been taken out of the hobbits' hands. I doubt that any of the hobbits would have taken wartime initiative if a wizard, a king, and two warriors had been there to lead the attacks. This is the hobbits' moment to be heroes, to win the respect of their own people, and to demonstrate the bravery they've acquired. Once again, the other characters have had their glory, and now we want to see the hobbits step it up!

MOST IMPORTANT POINT OF THIS POST: In the Return of the King video game for Gamecube (that's just my console, but I think PS2 as well), you can create these scenarios, hehe. I can testify that it's great fun to lead Gandalf through the Paths of the Dead! Or Sam, or Pippin, etc. I think one of my favorites was taking Faramir through Shelob's lair :) :) :) .

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vocabulary "On Fairy-stories" Group 3 -- Children

1) Vocabulary:
(from Sarah)

We found 6 words we thought were imperative to understanding the section on Children.
1-Pernicious: having a harmful effect; p.58 Tolkien considers wise those who don't think fairy stories are "pernicious"
2-"Lumber-room": we had a difficult time really defining this term.  Tolkien discusses it on p.59.  We decided he means that amongst the nonsense that is a lot of fairy stories, there are "diamonds in the rough" or treasures stuffed away in the attic.
3-Credulity: readiness or willingness to believe especially on slight or uncertain evidence; p. 60 Tolkien discusses how this fact was somewhat of a factor for focusing fairy stories towards children.
4-Secondary Belief: we never really came up with a definition for this one but we thought it was important. Tolkien discusses it on p. 61.  We thought it had something to do with adults suspending disbelief and being "supported by sentiment" in order to like a fairy story.  Any thoughts here?
5-Voracity: eager approach; p. 61 children are eager to try anything that is given to them, therefore they are more open to fairy stories
6-Erroneous: wrong or incorrect; p.65 the incorrect assumption that children are naturally to be associated with fairy stories

Source Materials "On Fairy-stories" Group 3 -- Children

Group 3's (Children) notes on #2: the Source Materials --
(from Lorin)

-Andrew Lang's Fairy Books: mythology and folklore for children
-Alice in Wonderland: Tolkien had no desire to have crazy dreams like Alice did
-Treasure Island: Tolkien had no desire to fight pirates and find treasure
-the world of Arthur and Merlin: Tolkien thought this better than Alice and Treasure Island
-history, astronomy, botany, grammar, etymology: all things which Tolkien was interested in as a child, besides fairy-stories
-poetry (in general): he disliked it as a child (even skipped over it in books), but "discovered" it later on in life

What if Sam destroyed the Ring?

(In response to Dr. Donovan's post, #1)

If Sam had been the one to, in the end, throw the Ring into the fire of Mount Doom, SO MUCH would have been different. He would have first of all had to somehow wrestle with Frodo over the Ring, which who knows if he would've actually done (attacking his Master??). If he succeeded, his relationship with Frodo probably would have been very different, too; Sam might be the real "Master" after that, or their friendship might have even dissolved. Gollum's role in the whole story would have been extremely different too. Both Bilbo and Frodo had pity on him and let him live, and the huge feat of taking the Ring from Frodo (though done in greed) that Gollum is able to accomplish because of their pity sort of shows how even the wickedest of creatures can act towards the furthering of Good. What would his purpose have been if he simply led the hobbits to Mordor? (not saying that's not important, but what big theme of Tolkien's would have been played out in that action?)

I'm sure there's more that would've been different if Sam was the one to destroy the Ring -- what do you all think?

Sam without Rosie

This post is in response to Dr. Donovan's prompt about various changes that could have been made to LotR. What if Fatty Bolger had married Rosie Cotton and not gone to prison? This seems completely sacrilegious for me to even contemplate. Of course Rosie belongs with Sam! It would have been utterly devastating for Sam to return from his grand adventure and find that his friend had married the woman he loves. It simply wouldn't be fair. Also, Rosie needs to stay faithful to Sam in order to motivate him on his journey. Yes, Sam forces himself to continue the journey in order to protect Frodo, but I think another part of him just wanted to finish the quest so he could return to Rosie. I think this is very similar to soldiers in war holding on to pictures of their girls back home. That is what they are fighting for. They don't really care that much about the war itself; they just want it to be over so they can go back home to the ones they love. Sam's situation is almost identical. He is on the quest to protect Frodo and destroy this great evil that threatens his homeland and the woman he loves. There is no possible way Tolkien could have written a satisfying ending without Sam marrying Rosie.

OFS "Children" and The Hobbit

Tolkien spends a great deal of time discussing children, and why fantasy/fairy-stories may or may not be just for children, or at least is also acceptable for adults, too.

Earlier on in the semester, we seemed to have pretty much decided, as a class, that The Hobbit was a children's novel.

After reading Tolkien's section "Children" from "On Fairy-Stories"...has anyone changed his/her mind? Why or why not?

OFS Vocabulary

Since we didn't have time in-class, I thought it might be really helpful--dare I say: fun?--to discuss some of the vocabulary of "On Fairy-Stories." Tolkien uses a language all his own, coining words and using everyday words with a slightly different meaning or intention.

If it won't break your pseudonymity (or you don't care if it does), post some of those words here, along with a definition (either from a dictionary or from Tolkien), and discuss. What is Tolkien saying here, and why? What is the point of coining this word? Why use this word in this specific way? People might come up with different definitions...is that okay?

Some extra-cool words you might want to consider:

-Fairy/Faerie/etc.
-Eucatastrophe
-Sub-creation

Good Fairy-Stories

I found Tolkien's arguments about how to write a "good" fairy-tale very interesting. I had never thought about it before, but it really is a very difficult thing to attempt to write! First of all, by Tolkien's rules, it should take place in a sort of off-shoot from our real world. It shouldn't be in the real world, but it should contain elements of the real world. However, it is also up to the author, or "sub-creator", to manipulate this world and make it into a totally new and believable world. I think the believable part is the hardest. We could all write stories and just change things or throw magic in to explain away differences, but to make it believable and real to the reader would be a challenge. As I read the essay, I kept thinking back to LOTR, and Tolkien really did a good job of making a believable world (of course we're talking about the rules that Tolkien gave for doing a good job so hopefully he followed his own rules!). He did create a world that is differnt from ours, but that you could almost see fitting into our world in the past. He made it into a real place, and I think that is the most important part of a good fairy-story: that it can be seen as real and reasonable.

Secondary Belief

Tolkien's essay "On Fairy Stories" mentioned something called Secondary Belief. While talking about the value and purpose of fairy stories Tolkien said that Secondary Belief was something that adults felt when reading fairytales. Rather than enjoying the tale itself, they enjoy the tale because of the sentimental feelings and reminders of childhood that come with the tale. However, Tolkien argues that fairy tales should have the same value as other types of literature; Fairy tales offer a sense of Recovery and Escape (among other themes listed in the essay) that adults can enjoy just as much as children, even though fairy tales have been directed mainly at children. I agree with Tolkien's argument; while we may lose our beliefs in Faerie and the fantasy world as we age, I believe we can still appreciate fairy tales as much as children, albeit in a different light.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Changes to LOTR

This is in response to Dr. Donovan's prompt...

The first choice I chose to analyze was the possibility of Aragorn marrying Eowyn instead of Arwen. For a lot of us, I think this marriage would have been more satisfying since by the end of the series, we feel pretty attached to Aragorn, and then he marries this elf that we really know nothing about. In contrast we've been with Eowyn and gotten to know her as she struggles with her place in life and how she can serve her country. But I feel as if Aragorn marrying a human would've been somewhat anticlimactic (no offense, Eowyn). Elessar grew up in Rivendell, he's the long lost King of Gondor, he's wielding Anduril...this guy's pretty special. And so it's fitting for him to marry Arwen, the Evenstar of her people. It's almost like the Elves' last gift to Middle-earth, and Arwen staying somewhat softens the blow of the departure of all of the immortal.

The second choice I chose was swapping the places of Theoden and Eomer at the battle of the Pelennor Fields. This would've undermined Tolkien's theme of "out with the old, in with the new" (that sounds kind of horrible talking about Theoden that way, I know). After the War of the Ring, power in Middle-earth has completely shifted to this new generation. Aragorn is King of Gondor, Faramir is the Steward, Eomer is King of Rohan, and overall power has shifted from the Elves to Men. Also, if Eomer had died and Theoden had lived, I'm not sure how well he would've taken it. Theodred is already dead and now Eomer, his beloved nephew? I feel like Theoden may have been overcome with guilt and grief, as strong as he may be.

The last choice I thought about was what would've happened if Saruman was killed by Wormtongue in Orthanc and never went to the Shire. This would've changed so much! The scouring of the Shire really shows how much the hobbits learned and changed throughout their adventures. I also think it plays an important part in redeeming Frodo in a way. In some ways coming back to an unchanged Shire would've been refreshing as a reader to see that evil doesn't penetrate everywhere. But Tolkien knew that was wishful thinking. The worth of the hobbits of the Shire shines so clearly as they deal with Saruman. It also goes to show the utter demise of the formerly great wizard that his power is completely broken by worthless (in his mind) hobbits.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Choices and Consequences

As a follow-up to our earlier class work on the choices and consequences of characters' actions, think again about the authorial choices Tolkien made in writing The Lord of the Rings. Select from the list below a couple of the alternative choices that Tolkien might have made instead and discuss the consequences of each alternative version of the story in a separate blog.

What would have to be changed or different in the rest of the trilogy to make the revised version work? Consider the impact of these changes on the reader as well as what authorial or textual gains and sacrifices Tolkien made in choosing to write the text as he actually did.

1. Sam instead of Gollum is responsible for the Ring's final destruction.
2. Aragorn marries Eowyn rather than Arwen.
3. Merry is killed by the Black Captain.
4. Pippin never goes to the last battle before the Gates of Mordor and stays with Merry in Minas Tirith.
5. Frodo escapes from the Tower of Cirith Ungol without Sam's help.
6. Denethor kills Faramir, but is prevented from killing himself.
7. The eagles never arrive to take part in the last battle before the Gates of Mordor.
8. The orcs in the Tower of Cirith Ungol do not fight and kill off each other.
9. Aragorn decides to wait at Minas Tirith, rather than to go to battle Sauron in Mordor.
10. Gandalf instead of Aragorn leads the Company through the Paths of the Dead.
11. Eomer instead of Theoden dies on the Pelennor Fields.
12. The warning signal of Silent Watchers turns Sauron's attention to the Tower of Cirith Ungol.
13. Eowyn never rides to battle, but remains in Edoras.
14. Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli return with the Hobbits to the Shire at the end.
15. Sam is stung by Shelob rather than Frodo.
16. Fatty Bolger was never thrown into prison in the Shire, but married Rosie Cotton while the Fellowship was gone.
17. Saruman is killed by Wormtongue in Orthanc and never goes to the Shire.

Powerful characters

In The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, several characters of great power show up to help in times of great need. In addition to Gandalf as one of these characters, Beorn in The Hobbit and Tom Bombadil in The Fellowship of the Ring are other examples. As powerful as they are, such characters stoutly refuse to help beyond what is needed. What purpose do these characters serve on a greater scale in the plot of Middle-earth? Why does Tolkien limit these seemingly extremely powerful characters to such small roles in his fiction? Are they portraying something more important or do they simply serve as a deus ex machina to rescue bumbling Hobbits from certain doom?

Leadership in LOTR

Throughout LOTR, but especially in The Return of the King, Tolkien works to make sure his readers examine the question of what makes a good leader. What are the qualities of a leader Tolkien seems to want us to admire most? What characters seem to be the best leaders? Which are the most effective leaders? Are the best leaders always the most effective ones or not? What other models of leadership might Tolkien be thinking about as he develops his characters? Aragorn is clearly a leader, but is Frodo a leader or not?

Answer any or all of the above questions, using as many specific examples as possible to support your point.

Friendship in LOTR

In an earlier post, the friendship between Sam and Frodo was discussed, but Tolkien also chooses to allow a specific bond of friendship to develop between Legolas and Gimli. Why between these two characters? Why not Legolas and Merry? Or Gimli and Sam? Or Aragorn and Legolas? Or Merry and Aragorn? What moral, ethical or even simply thematic point is Tolkien trying to make with this friendship?

Friendship itself as well as the loyalty between friends is also a key theme throughout LOTR. Apart from the bond between Legolas and Gimli, what other ways does Tolkien emphasize the importance of friendship in his works?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mount Doom

Although it made for an interesting moral question in the end about Frodo's character but I felt like Frodo kind of let the reader down. To go all the way to Mount Doom and then not throw the ring in the fire, felt like the whole trip was for nothing.

Hopelessness and Despair

Going back to a free write we had a while ago, I think the best example of the hopelessness toward the end of the journey is the fat that the only creature that could help Frodo and Sam is Gollum. Gollum, the most pitiful and wretched creature that is the least preferred companion to guide the hobbits around the land of the greatest evil known to middle earth is the most hopeless situation that they could possibly be presented with.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Frodo'scompansion to the very end

Even after having been corrupted by the ring. he still shows compassion to others. What is more shocking to me is that he shows compassion to the main bad guy! It shows that the essence of his character survived, to show compassion to the second of his biggest enemy.

Saruman, the redeemable?

Saruman can be characted as the archetpye redeemable character that is good at first, then turns evil, thenreturns to good. After Frodo lets him go, he kind of lets go of his evil ways and leaves the Shire.

Extended ending

I think Tolkien used such a long ending to really emphasize the extent of changes that happened to his characters. The length also is consistent with the detailed description of his books. It really gives that detailed ending that makes for a feeling of completion.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Epic vs fairytail ending

During class, we discussed how Tolkien uses multiple theme. I think having both an epic and fairytale hero shows his deep understanding of multiple elements of literature. As to why he switched the character's deaths at the end, I think it is to show that the end for some is not always set in stone.

Succes or Failure?

I think as a whole the quest to destroy the ring was successful, but Frodo's personal quest to destroy the ring failed in the end. Gollum really finished his quest for him. Frodo took it upon himself not only to be the ring-bearer but also to be the ring destroyer. In the very end he said he could no longer what he came to do.

Aragorn as Thorongil

So I thought Aragorn's role as Thorongil is super interesting. He aided his true kingdom under a pseudonym so as to protect his identity and not cause any strife for the steward Ecthelion. And the fact that he had once before looked to the Corsairs of Umbar and defeated them so as to protect Minas Tirith is definite foreshadowing to the War of the Ring. What do you guys think of the hypothesizing that one of the reasons Denethor didn't like Mithrandir was because Denethor viewed the wizard as conspiring to supplant him? What right does Denethor have to stand in the way of the return of the true king? But to play the devil's advocate...how easy would it be to give up ruling a city after the Stewards have watched over said city for hundreds of years?

Friday, March 11, 2011

One Question to Rule Them All

So. In order to be a proper internet forum discussing Lord of the Rings, there is one argument we have to have. I don't know why. It's a really silly argument, but I have sat back and watched people tear each other apart via internet over this question. I don't expect people to tear each other apart or anything like that, but I thought we'd make this blog legit XD. NOW. The question:

Do Balrogs have wings?

Go. xD

Novelty

Why did Tolkien create the multiple-step ending? Perhaps Tolkien wanted to show how drastic the hobbits transformed relative to the hobbits who remain in the Shire. Maybe Tolkien decided to do this multiple step ending for its novelty (or both). Tolkien creates novelty by adding maps, portraying uncommon endings with multiple climaxes and resolutions, switching the outcomes of the epic and fairy tale characters, and essentially creating his own fantasy writing rules in the process. Did Tolkien write the multiple-step ending for the same reason (novelty) that he does in these instances?

When people read about “sub-created” worlds, some people (like me) tend to think that many of these fictions only piggy back off of a great work like Lord of the Rings; thus, they are just not as good. Even though many works are similar to LOTR, it just lacks that novelty (we have already seen it before). Did Tolkien do so many unique things just for the novelty of it? Is that why LOTR rose in popularity to achieve greatness? Or did Tolkien just do this simply because he wanted too (no additional reasoning)?

Secondly, why did Tolkien make the ending so long? Did he also do this because it was new and innovative?

Many great works are great because they are the first of the kind and have never been seen much before. Is novelty Tolkien’s motivation beyond the multiple-step (and long) endings and other unique Tolkien additions? Are the benefits like exaggerating transformations and the fear of ending too quickly just bonuses?

March 19th Show



I apologize that this is not a Lord of the Rings related post, other than the fact that I would love to see all of my fellow Tolkien fans at this event! I spaced bringing fliers to class today, so I hope you won't mind this blog post!

Click the blog posting's title "March 19th Show" for more details!

Thank you!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Aragorn's Self-Decided Death

In the apendicies, Tolkien says that when Aragorn is extremely old, he chooses when he will die. He says goodbye to Arwen and everyone and then goes to sleep in the tombs of the kings. He basically chooses to die before he becomes sick or crippled with old age. Does anyone else find this kinda odd? What gives him the right to die when he wants to? How is it different from Denethor's suicide?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Critique I want to address

So this is also late, but it's something I wanted to talk about since I heard the group on criticism. There was the brief mention of the fact that Frodo had no discernable flaws before picking up the Ring. Which... the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me. Then a terrible thought occurred to me.

Could Frodo be a Mary Sue?
[well... Gary Stu, technically, but I always thought that name sounded stupid]

For those of you who don't live on the internet like someone I could think of... *cough* a Mary Sue is a title given to a character created by the author as a self-insert. Some famous Mary Sues (of both genders) include: Bella Swan, Captain Kirk, Tom Sawyer, Scott Summers, and GI Joe. And now... maybe Frodo? D:

Now, according to TV Tropes, here are the traits of a Mary Sue: "It is a character that is intentionally made by the author to be overly positive. They almost never have any flaws that actually affect them in a way that truly matters, usually going for endearing traits such as "clumsiness" or naïveté, instead getting overloaded with overwhelmingly positive but largely passive traits (i.e. beauty, innocence, etc.). The character will usually be soft-spoken, have a pleasant voice, and be mild-mannered. Often, the traits verge towards the ethereal, with auras, non-human lineage, and other such things."

HMM.

I would be very interested on your thoughts/feelings on the matter. This was one TYPE of Mary Sue, there are others, so don't get confused. But this is where my brain decides to go on a Wednesday night when I should be editing my paper. ^^

Moral Clarity

Lol late. Have a freewrite!

I'm really fascinated with the fact that the main enemy our heroes have to balled are inhuman (ie: orcs). It's kind of a weird decision, since it certainly pulls away any potential shades of grey the battles could have. It's easy to fight against things that arent human, because you don't have to worry about things like motivation and morality. The orcs do these things because they are evil and that's all there really is to it. I think that's why the characters are so willing to fight the hopeless fight: it's easy to do the right thing when there's no moral ambiguity. They're right, the orcs are wrong, and that's all there is to it. I postulate that it would be more difficult for people to sacrifice themselves if there was more question about who was in the right. Simply because the cast of LOTR desperately wants to do the right thing. They make these sacrifices and have such "hopeless courage" because tehy know that in the end, they've done the right thing. Which would be much harder if their adversaries were human. Or if there were more moral ambiguity, which would be nice, really.

"The Ring is Mine!" -Tolkien's Writing Choices

A lot of people have (understandably) made postings about our debate in class, so I promise I'll avoid being redundant in this post. The posts that have been made argued for Frodo's success and failure really well, so instead of arguing that point, I want to look at the moment of "failure" in Mount Doom and why Tolkien chose to write it the way he did.

I've often wondered why, at the crux of the story, Tolkien chooses to have his wholesome hero succumb to greed and corruption. When Frodo announces that he is taking the Ring for himself, Tolkien dashes all of the reader's expectations and hopes. The reader, having followed Frodo thus far, is rallying for his success; personally, I always believed that Frodo would show the resolve that Isildur lacked.

I try to understand this writing choice by considering alternatives. If Frodo had cast the Ring into the fire with no internal struggle at all or with minimal struggle, then the Mount Doom scene might not have felt like a climax for me, although I'm sure Tolkien could still have written it in a cathartic way. I would've doubted that the Ring was that powerful to begin with, if it couldn't sway Frodo's mind in the heart of Sauron's realm. Also, such passivity on Frodo's part would've cheated the hobbit out of a major shift in character, the outcome of all his trials.

In the end, I wouldn't have wanted Tolkien to write the scene any other way. We talked yesterday about Tolkien's multi-step ending to The Return of the King, and how he never cared much for writing conventions. I think this is the same thing. Tolkien didn't care to gratify the reader by giving us the ending we expected; instead, he took a risk, both for himself and for his character, and gave the scene depth by doing so.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Success? Failure? Ambiguous!

I think Frodo both succeeded and failed. Frodo was successful in that his quest was completed. He brought the ring all the way from the Shire to Mount Doom. Sure he had help, and fate (luck?) but he made the most contributions (as the predominant ring-bearer) to this collaborative act. He was successful in the majority of his quest in the least (he did bring the ring a long way). In this sense, it was neither a complete success nor a complete failure.

Frodo also failed in that he was corrupted by the ring. He vowed to himself to cast the ring into the fire. However, one could argue that even as he made this vow, he was already under the power of the ring. Did Frodo just say this because he did not want Sam to get any bright ideas about taking his ring? If this is so, then are these words even Frodo’s own? Frodo makes this vow seconds after snapping at Sam. I highly doubt Frodo was in control at this point. As an explanation to this outburst Frodo explains, “I must carry this burden to the end.” This is, disputably, an explanation for an outburst that Frodo had no control over. Is this Frodo's vow or the ring's vow?

Elrond never specifically told Frodo to get to Mount Doom on his own and personally cast the ring into the fire. It is disputable if Frodo (as himself) even made the vow to personally destroy the ring.

This entire debate rides on whether or not Frodo’s own quest was destroy the ring personally.

Because of the internal conflict between Frodo and the ring the specificity of the quest is ambiguous; thus, you could argue that he is successful in some ways yet failed himself in others. However, we really cannot be certain of either.

However, based on the context of Frodo ‘s vow to personally destroy the ring, I am more inclined to view Frodo as successful in this ambiguous quest. But still, it is impossible to be 100% certain of what Frodo’s quest specifically entails.

Yes! He succeeded.

I just wanted to say that regardless of the debate today, I feel that Frodo succeeded. The Ring was destroyed and he was able to free himself from its power instead of go mad. I also think that Tolkien could not have written the scene in Mount Doom any other way. It would be anticlimactic for Frodo to cast the Ring away without a second thought. Also, Gollum had to die eventually and destroying the Ring at the same time gives the reader closure. In the end, everything comes full circle, Frodo is able to leave Middle-earth in peace.