Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Innocence vs. Wisdom

In class we talked a bit about how Smith of Wootton Major emphasized the importance of innocence and child-like belief rather than wisdom and maturity (portraying the oldest character, Nokes, as somewhat mean and foolish).

However, when Tolkien wrote this, he was much older and closer to the end of his writing career. Why do you think Tolkien valued youth and innocence more as he grew older? Does this seem backwards, or does it make sense to you?

Personally, I'm a bit surprised. I would have thought this learned older man would think himself superior to others who have had less life experience! It seems to be the opposite. Thoughts?


Anna Adams said...

I wasn't too surprised. After reading his essay "On Fairy-stories," I was under the impression that he holds more respect for children than other people do. When he says fairy stories aren't just for children, I felt that he was saying children can enjoy stories that adults can enjoy as well, which puts them on almost the same level. When I read his children's stories I feel that he doesn't talk down to kids, too, so that could also have influenced my impression that he respects children.

Maybe Nokes was meant to represent that old people aren't necessarily superior to the young. Towards the end of his life I wouldn't be surprised if Tolkien was feeling especially sentimental about childhood.

I do understand where you're coming from, especially since Tolkien did act pretty superior towards others on more than one occasion.

Troy Wells said...

Maybe he looks at age not from a personal point of view, but as a father. He saw his sons in their innocence when they were younger and watched as they grew older and became more accustomed to the world. Maybe he missed the part of fatherhood where his sons thought of him as perfect and disliked the part where they grew older and realized his flaws.

S. M. said...

I’m not particularly surprised that Tolkien values the outlook of children. It seems that in “Smith of Wootton Major,” he praises a child’s ability to always see the world with fresh eyes, though I do not think that he deems experience to be a total hindrance to such sight. Rather, I think that he is emphasizing that people should not let their experiences limit their ability to take a step back and appreciate the world’s wonders.