Thursday, August 27, 2015

Unfamiliar Items from "Tolkien's Middle Ages"

Post your research on one of the items with which your were unfamiliar in your section from Snyder's chapter “Tolkien’s Middle Ages” as a comment to this post.

Mythopoeia Freewrite

It seems to me that in a lot of his writing, and especially Mythopoeia, Tolkien is making the point that he believes people are FIRST creative and imaginative, but through time and age become more jaded and scientific. So where one might initially see a star as living silver, he will later see the star for what it really is. I think through his own myth-making, Tolkien was really trying to get children to stay innocent and imaginative and to get grown-ups to return to that natural state. To stop seeing stars as ball of gas and start seeing Earendil.. to stop seeing constellations as patterns in space  and to start seeing them as stories. The earth should be a story, the stars and their patterns should be a story. The stories of peoples long gone or who maybe never existed. The stories imagined or retold by people long gone as well. Stories meant to be told and retold to capture a sense of awe and wonder and keep everybody innocent and childlike in their ways of thinking about the world. Not letting war and strife disenchant them from human life and love, not letting the news scare them, not letting their experiences dictate their present and future. To dream is to live?? It’s like…. the real world happened to the Hobbits who were once hidden away in the Shire. But the sense that one gets from reading his works is that Tolkien wished they could have just stayed in the Shire and maintained their innocent happiness, remaining untouched by evil and unaltered by cruelty. And yet.. Frodo was permanently scarred. Frodo is like Tolkien… a man (hobbit) in love with England (the Shire) who had to let go of his innocence to fight evil in the Great War (or destroy the Ring in Mordor) and who returned home forever changed. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Favorite line in "Mythopoiea"

What is your favorite line or a couple of lines from Tolkien's poem "Mythopoeia"? What is so appealing about the line(s) to make it your favorite?

Compare Medievalism and Mythmaking

Compare and contrast the concepts of medievalism as set out by Snyder or others and mythmaking or mythopoeia that we discussed earlier. Do these concepts reflect similar functions or ideas? How do they differ from each other? Is mythopoeia more all encompassing or can medievalism be equally all encompassing?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

On Culture Relatability as a Necessity

There was a discussion on the necessity of a sense of "cultural relate-ability" for a myth to be both a myth and successful. I aim to argue that this is not necessary, but helpful in the creation, success, and permanency of a myth. While I would not be remiss as to remove this entirely, I find it hard to believe that a myth requires it. When I say "cultural relate-ability" what I mean is the idea wherein a myth success relies on the foundation structure that its audience understands cultural norms, ideas and identities that were common at the origin of the myth. Make no mistake, I think that this was important at the start of a myth, and that these cultural identities shifted to match its intended audience at the time, as per the norm of most verbal traditions, but in some mythologies, it is unnecessary.

I will take note of Native American mythologies, which mainly focus on the stories of divinity as happening between the anthropomorphic animals and nature that lies around them. One of my favorite myths from this tradition revolves around a snake and a hare and the gods. In this story, the defenseless snake is given fangs and a poison after a compassionate god takes pity upon the snake being beaten by the hare continuously.

Now, this myth is interesting to me because it doesn't rely on the same cultural identities and norms to make sense and to be a mythological tradition that continues to this day. I believe anyone can understand the myth without being lost, since it appeals to human nature than a socially constructed abstract concept that justifies certain mimetic ideas. In short, while relate-ability is necessary, it can stem from both culture and human nature to be successful, and neither replaces or outdoes the other.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A myth is nothing without context, and context lies in culture. A culture defines what sort of creatures, magic, antagonists, and setting exist in a myth. Take, for example, the djinn of middle-eastern myth. In this culture, the djinn is a fire elemental creature with free-will. This flame-creature is mentioned in the Quran and makes its way into popular stories and myth-- particularly One Thousand and One (Arabian) Nights. The djinn, popularly known as the genie in western cultures, would not be known at all without its Arabic background.

With this sort of example in mind, think about Middle-earth. Tolkien's mythology also has context/culture even though his mythology lies mostly within his imagination. He takes legends of old Europe and weaves a world that is easy to get lost in. This world, though rooted in European Mythology, has its own set of values, morals, peoples, and culture. The culture of Middle-earth is what holds the rest of the story and setting together. Yes, the people may exist (the hobbits, the elves, the orcs, and of course man), but how would they act? What drives them? Why do they do what they do?

Hobbits act the way they do because Tolkien has established a culture for them-- eating, lazing about, a life of indulgence, and general quietude; this is all context Tolkien creates with his background on Hobbit Culture.

What would background be without context? Background doesn't exist without context. And think, what better way to give context to a people, explain their values, and touch on the reasons they act in the manners they do? Give them culture and everything else falls into place.

Truth in Mythmaking

Reality and truth are vital to mythmaking.  Without truth, myths would be hollow and irrelevant, something not worth remembering or repeating.  We read and listen and care about stories because we want to feel like we are not alone.  We want to know that there are others who are struggling too, and they have survived.

Moreover, morals and laws are passed down through myths and mythology.  This could not be done without some elements of reality in mythology.  Ganymede taught the Greeks what is acceptable in relation to pederasty, but that entire story would not have been necessary if the Greeks of Crete had not commonly practiced pederasty.  Mythology reflects life--sometimes subtly, and sometimes more blatantly.

The most interesting thing about mythology is how much it tells us about ourselves.  The things that we preserve in mythology are the things that make our cultures unique—the things that are most important to our cultures.  This is the “truth” of mythology.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Nessa, Helinyetille

I am sister of Oromë, last-named of the Valar, and wife of the great warrior Tulkas.  I married my husband in the Spring of Arda--the Years of the Lamps--before Melkor cast them down.  Our wedding was full of feasting and merriment, but later, while my husband slept, Melkor began his ruin of our world.  When he destroyed the Lamps, the world was utterly destroyed, and we returned to Valmar.  While once I had danced upon the Isle of Almaren, I now danced and ran upon the grassy knolls of Valmar.

Now I am one of the seven Queens of the Valar, and I love running with the deer through the meadows whilst my valiant husband rules in Valinor.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Brainstorm About Mythmaking

One defining characteristic of myths that was discussed today in class was power. While this was not something that my group and I thought of during our brainstorm, it immediately spoke to me when I saw it on the board. Hugely fascinating to me are the power dynamics at play within various theologies and dogmas. Considering the interconnectedness of myth and religion I was surprised that I hadn’t thought of “power” myself as a response to the prompt.
Conflict was one characteristic that went uncontested as a central theme within myths. The foundation of conflict is arguably power: who gets to call the shots and the various details of this responsibility. Another uncontested characteristic was morality, or good and evil. Certainly power underlies this relationship as well; both the hero and the villain seek to gain control of the given situation.
The centrality of power is observable across many mythic traditions. Greek mythology immediately comes to mind for the petty and pervasive power struggles between the various gods and goddesses. Within Tolkien’s Middle Earth the desire for power is manifested in the One Ring, the control of which becomes the driving force behind the entire Trilogy. Power, I think, can be argued as the main motivation for many decisions and actions, both in mythology and life

Varda, Lady of the Stars

Image from: Varda, Queen of the Valar and Lady of the Stars, also known as Elbereth Gilthoniel, is the most beautiful and well loved of the Valar. Varda is most loved by the elves and lives with her husband, Manwe, near whom her powers are at their strongest. As Lady of the Stars, the elves often sing hymns to her and she often answers prayers, as she holds essentially the light of God in her face. Varda is the creator of the stars and the cause of the sun and moon's rotations. Perhaps the most important conflict present in Varda's story involves Melkor, whom the Valar defeated in order to keep the elves safe. I look forward to learning more about the Queen of the Valar and am honored to temporarily present my name as hers to you.

What Makes a Myth?

Anyone can tell a story; however, few stories truly capture their authors and intrigue their audiences so much as mythologies. Perhaps we all dream of a world beyond our own in order to make sense of what we see and to cope with difficult times, or perhaps we are simply intrigued by the notion of fantasy and empowered by stories of bravery and epic journey. Myths are created, often as origin stories or explanations of the history of some culture. Whether reflective of realistic or fictional cultures, each myth presents at least two major elements: interesting characters and the somewhat extraordinary tasks they face along their journey. Some of our most loved characters, from Frodo Baggins and Beowulf to even the more modern Harry Potter, exist as heroic figures who present historic change in their cultures after completing a perilous set of tasks. Frodo's journey to destroy the ring also reflects a time of extensive warfare and strife throughout Middle-earth, and his saga continues into the days after the ring is destroyed in order to show the effect his journey holds on the future of his world. Even Merry and Pippin, in their transformed militaristic states at the end of the third book, represent change through their conquering of the men who take over the Shire. If Middle-earth were a real place and not a fictional world, we as men would consider the fight to destroy the Ring of Power as one of the most significant factors which led to the Age of Men. We would celebrate Frodo, Gandalf, Galadriel, and the Kings of old. Mythologies, in truth, are in some ways overstatements of everyday conflict, presented in the form of journeys taken on by extraordinary heroes with special characteristics or supernatural friends and enemies. Perhaps we create myths as motivation. Personally, I think the study of how and why mankind creates beings beyond ourselves (for example, elves and wizards) is almost more interesting than questioning why mankind would feel a need to create myth in general.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

"History Behind the Myth"

The backstory of a story is incredibly important. Sure, you can delve straight into a fictional world or the life of a character without knowing how the world came to be or the past of the character. However, there wouldn't be such a world or character without their beginning. Most stories, have a beginning, either outlined or implied. The Bible begins with Genesis, the story of creation. Greek mythology begins with Chaos and the beginnings of life birthed from it. The Silmarillion is Tolkien's creation story for the world he created. These are the tales of how worlds began, giving the audience of the story the background they need to better understand and know the world they are beginning to relate to and even love. In the same way, the Bible outlines the lineage of Jesus and the prophecies proceeding his life. Greek mythology defines the birth of Kronos from Gaia and Uranus. The Silmarillion gives the backstory and further defines the character of Gandalf, a Maiar sent to Middle-Earth by the Valar.
These are the tales of how worlds began and characters came to be, giving the audience of the story the background they need to better understand and know the world and characters they are beginning to relate to and even love.
I would venture to say that a "creation" or a beginning is an essential element of mythology.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Central Elements in Mythologies

List and discuss two specific elements of any kind of real-world mythology or fictional world that you think are particularly central or important to it. Why do these elements strike you as particularly interesting or important? What do these two elements say about the culture that gave rise to them?

Your Pseudonym

You have been given the name of a figure from Tolkien's Middle-earth mythology to use as your pseudonym for work on this blog. Look up your pseudonym and write a brief description of who/what your mythological character is. Tell us whatever you can learn of the story of your character. If you really get inspired, feel free to add an image to your description!