Sunday, March 31, 2013

Know Too Much

Someone mentioned in class last week about how annoying the characters are who know too much and do too little. (I think it was Megan. Hi, Megan!)  I think we were talking about the elves at the time.  Why does Tolkien include these characters that know so much, but they do so little to help others in Middle-earth? Is there a reason for these characters, do any of you think? Is it just how they are? I'm curious to hear your answers, even if you don't know. And another thing I'm wondering is why did Tolkien include the Wizards, who he purposely made to not know too much?


Megan said...

Hi, Anna!

Argh yes this. The long tradition of characters who know too much and do too little. Let's get a list going:

* Manwe (and most of the Valar)
* Cirdan
* Tom Bombadil
* all the Istari (except Gandalf, SOMETIMES)
* Thingol and Melian
* Finrod
* Galadriel (LOTR-era)

Feel free to challenge any of these, or add to them. I especially have problems with the ones who like hiding in their secret racist little elves-only nightclubs, who say "Nah, Morgoth's not bothering us, we're good."

I know we're not supposed to use the word "allegory" in connection with Tolkien, but he did live through two really rough World Wars, during which non-involvement (ie, U.S.) was often resented by Europeans. Just an idea.

I wouldn't say "allegory" even if it wasn't a bad word in Tolkien studies, especially because Tolkien himself never condemns the non-involved characters for their non-involvement. So, I guess *I* just have a problem with these characters.

Troy Wells said...

Hi Megan and Anna!
I would add the eagles. Sure they come in occasionally at the last minute and save the day, but they could be much more useful if they helped in day-to-day activities. For example, what if Elrond was able to just message them (via smoke signal or something) after the fellowhship was formed and requested a ride to Mount Doom or at least the border of Mordor? I know it would have been a pretty lame story if they just took took a flight non-stop to Mount Doom, but it would have been much less risky and much faster. What do you guys think?

Lorin said...

So, I've been thinking about the whole Eagles thing - some people think the Eagles are used way too much as a deus ex machina thing, and others (Hi, Troy!) see them as not being involved enough. But, I think I've personally come to see it as almost completely having to do with Manwe and his involvement in Middle-earth (I don't know if that's a correct view to take on it or not, but we do have the information that Manwe is in charge of the air and some birds - including the Eagles, I'm pretty sure?). More specifically, I see anytime the Eagles show up as Manwe actually getting involved in Middle-earth - it's quite miraculous, for lack of a better word, that he even does this at all, because the Valar are otherwise so removed from the stories of LOTR and the Hobbit. So, if we take the Eagles to be under Manwe's command, I think Manwe actually does quite a lot for Middle-earth - he still knows too much, but I see him doing a lot more than other characters who also know too much, even if he does do sort of last second, deus ex machina things.

Megan said...

Lorin and Troy--the eagles are an interesting example here, agreed!

I think I agree with both of you: Lorin, because yes, I believe that the eagles are under Manwe's jurisdiction and therefore only get involved at his command; but I also agree with Troy that they don't get involved enough (which is Manwe's fault)!!

So might we just add the eagles to the list above next to Manwe?

Austin M. said...

I think it is interesting to point out the Istari as agents without much knowledge. I agree with this perspective and it is important to remember that the Valar sent them to act as agents of guidance, not necessarily action. Perhaps this was part of Saruman's downfall. He became engrossed with knowledge of power and dominance, forgetting the little things of Arda. While Gandalf also has an enormous wealth of knowledge, his is accumulated over lifetimes of loving study rather than greedy consumption.