Friday, October 23, 2015

Tolkien in Faery

In class on Tuesday we discussed the possibility of “Smith of Wootton Major” being autobiographical.  After recovering from the mind-blowing revelation that Tolkien may have believed he travelled to Faery,  I began to contemplate the autobiographical nature of the story.  I read “Leaf by Niggle” in conjunction with “Smith of Wootton Major” before coming to class.  It was interesting to compare the two, as “Leaf by Niggle” is almost certainly autobiographical.  When you look at the two together, it is much easier to see Smith as being autobiographical.  In Leaf, Niggle struggles with balancing his creative life with his social life.  He ends up taking a long journey and ending up in a place that it is essentially purgatory.  Obviously, Tolkien hadn’t died and gone to purgatory when he wrote Leaf.  Nevertheless, it is still autobiographical in the sense that he is communicating his fears and struggles.  Smith does the same thing.  He is expressing his desire to maintain the childishness that allows him to experience Faery.  


Estë said...

I honestly was not overly surprised to hear this idea of Smith being autobiographical. I think you make a good point here, that Tolkien was at once an academic and very creative man who probably struggled with these two worlds colliding- which to give precedent? The grownupishness of academia vs. the eternal childishness (in the best way) of his creative spirit. Knowing as we do that Tolkien was a devout Catholic, the idea that perhaps he thought he personally visited the Faery Realm in some way does not seem too outlandish. I think it was Kaylee who brought this up in class, that as a religious person Tolkien was probably more inclined to mystical experience or supernatural belief. Catholicism involves some tenets that are somewhat magical, if I may say so with all due respect to anyone who may take offense (as do all religions). These kinds of almost magical beliefs may perhaps have made Tolkien more open to the idea of magical experience, namely visiting this other realm that he called Faerie. This makes me wonder about magic in relation to religion, and if Tolkien would think they were different or not (bearing in mind that he didn’t like the word magic).

Vairë said...

These are well made observations. One thing I might add: with smith, Tolkien returns to his trademark, and almost annoying, displays of humility. His heroes are once again chosen by fortune and fate, and none for truly superior qualities. They just are who they are and are made to do what they do. Smith points, I think therefore, to Tolkien's strong affinity for the work he performed and his disbelief in his talent at it.

Varda said...

What is a work of fiction if not the embodiment of our own imagination? In a way, stories told in other realms are essentially embodiments of our own thoughts, needs, fears, and desires. When we read a story, we are most attracted to the portions of the story we personally relate to. When we choose a topic for an essay, or even for our recent multimedia project, we choose a topic that interests us or that holds significance. This was proven today in class through the wide array of topics we all chose and explored. I think it is perfectly reasonable to say that Tolkien visited Faery, whether we imply a literal or figurative scenario. Tolkien held certain interests in life that carried over into his fiction, and faery provided him with the things he needed to express his interests, fears, and more. If we all were to "visit" Faery, would it not provide different things for each of us?