Thursday, August 27, 2015

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. 

4 comments:

Aulë said...

I reacted to this star passage in a similar way, but I worked backwards. I agree that Tolkien is encouraging a childlike frame of mind, but to me it seemed more that he was encouraging adults to go back to the beginning because one cannot really "see" things such as stars unless one can understand the beauty and depth and innocence behind them. To see a star as just a big ball of gas doesn't allow us to appreciate that star for all it is in the realm beyond scientific, empirical face-value, the realm of imagination. Perhaps, even though we may be Frodos returning from life-altering, treacherous journeys fraught with Doom and Fate, Tolkien is encouraging us to accept those journeys and look past them so that we can come back to the Shire and appreciate its beauty that much more because now, we know the true, innocent good that it represents in the face of such dark evil.

Nienna said...

I find your take on Mythopoeia interesting, but I'm not sure if I entirely agree that Tolkien was encouraging people to behave and think in a more childlike state. After all, his works are not necessarily geared toward children. I think perhaps what he was encouraging wasn't a childlike state of mind but a less skeptical one where we feel the need to explain and prove everything. As a man who valued myth and creativity over empiricism it seems that he is trying to remind people of the dominant mindset in the Middle Ages, which valued many of the themes and mysticism rife in Tolkien's works. This mindset was largely criticized following The Enlightenment and the rise of the enlightenment way of thinking, which encourages people to discover and prove everything with their own senses. Tolkien, as a staunch supporter of mysticism and mythology, was likely disturbed by the dominance of the empirical way of thinking and the view that empiricism is the only "correct" way to view the world. I think Tolkien is trying to remind people that there are multiple ways of looking at the same phenomena and no one way of thinking is necessarily the best.

Nessa said...

I think your take on this is very interesting Vana! I think that there is definitely a pastoral element in all of his works that I have read, in which he pines for the innocence and romance of childhood and of years gone by. As far as returning to childhood, I do not necessarily believe he wants us all to stay naïve and childish forever, but I think he does try to capture that age-old saying: "the heart of a child." This doesn't mean staying young physically or rejecting the world for the way it is. None of us could really go back into the mind of a child, and if we did, it would probably be a bit like watching your favorite childhood movie over or reading an old bedtime story; nothing would be quite the same.

I think what he is saying is not that we should think like children but that we should search for that feeling associate with childhood. As you said, we should see the world through open eyes, seeing "Stories meant to be told and retold to capture a sense of awe and wonder..."

We cannot help growing up, but even as adults, we should try to keep our focus on what matters: not why things work but how they make us feel. In Tolkien's works, things are constantly destroyed and rebuilt in lesser forms. Memories fade and innocence is lost, yet with every loss, there arises something almost more beautiful. Memory.

Yavanna said...

What seems interesting to me is the fact that Tolkien and many of his contemporaries appear to have a limited worldview about this. In terms of a gross oversimplification they assume that by understanding something it takes away some ephemeral quality that the object holds which imparts unto it greater meaning. This mysterious element is unexplained-and while one may argue that we should not forget the art, the emotions and meaning which we apply through stories, to assume that this entails some sort of ban from progression is strange.

There is a line within the poem itself where Tolkien suddenly loses me, personally when he calls what one could identify as the "scientists" as being "erect apes". It seems, childish, petty even-and one might expect Tolkien to better handle this then create an ad hominem attack against them. This is simply because the rest of the poem is so beautiful, so thoughtfully written that it seems strange-careless even.

For I see his point, and I agree. We as a species should not forget the intangible soul that makes us impart meaning, and reason onto the world. If we are to drown ourselves in the knowledge that life is meaningless, random, short and out of our control we will lose what little we have. I simply suggest that we take a more complicated position. Science, progress and reason should not stop because of this inexplicable virginity that the world holds-but neither should it forget what that meant to us in the past and how it shapes our future.