Sunday, December 6, 2015

Ancillary Concerns

We learned this semester that Tolkien's works were all supported by a great many ingredients. I am referring, of course, to the stew metaphor that came up quite often in class. I wonder what sources all of you drew from to understand the works of Tolkien? What lenses you viewed his work through? In personal terms, I definitely looked at Tolkien's works from a small background in philosophy and a definite background in creative literature. I also understood Tolkien's works visually, through the lens of theatre (a realm of cause and effect, stakes, power, and hyper-acute representations of life). For example, the split in Gollum's nature is defined by which side is defying the other. Whichever is doing the defying has less at stake, and more power in the situation. That is a classic setup for theatric tension. What do you think? How did you understand the works of Tolkien?

Enunciation... etc. Et. All

Has anyone learned any elvish this semester :) ?  I never caught that sort of time, but the reason I ask is out of an interest in the elvish song that we read in The Road Goes Ever On. Songwriting for other languages and cultures fascinates me. It's a real trip to imagine what sort of sociological factors would influence their music. Tell me: what do you think the music of the elves was like, and, beyond that, what about the music of creation?

Book Titles!

Our connections to Tolkien come in many forms, and many from the works of other authors influenced by his works. With that in mind, I have to ask: are there any books I should read? Movies I should see? Anything that reminded you of Tolkien that you appreciate. I'll contribute my entry here: The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher. Thanks all!

Teaching Tolkien

Hi all, this is Vairë, or, as many of you know me, Sam. After this semester of work and readings and discussion, it is clear to me that there are quite a few takeaways to be had from this class. Tolkien is definitely a teachable work, and one with lasting value in a number of fields and areas of life. After coming to that realization, I wanted to ask you all a few questions: 1.) Do you agree with my assessment, or do you find difficulty applying the works of Tolkien to our molecular universe or legitimizing them without it 2.) Would you like to see Tolkien studies more frequently in school systems 3.) Does the lasting value of Tolkien's works, it's "legacy," warrant an entire field of studies 4.) would you follow such a course of study? I ask these things out of a lifelong curiosity over the teaching of creative thinking and humanities courses. I believe their teaching is integral to society as a whole, and I like to do a fact check and to analyze the ways that their teaching can be shown applicable and necessary. I hope you might contribute your opinions to my questions, whether you agree or disagree. I feel like there is a fight to legitimize everything from fantasy to philosophy, and if there is indeed a need for such, I would like to know how to defend the necessity of the work that is separate from the molecular.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The End of All Things

Hey guys!  I can't really believe that this class is over already, and I will definitely miss it and all of you a ton!  I know there was a lot of cheese going on Thursday, but really though--it's been a great class.

Anyway, this week my German professor asked us to write a few pages about how we are going to use what we had learned in our careers and our futures, and I thought it was ridiculous at first.  I'm an English/Theatre major; German is never going to help me with anything!  But as I wrote, I realized more and more how much that class will help me in real life career settings.  It expanded my English grammar comprehension, expanded my vocabulary, and taught me some really good tongue-twisters for warm ups!

So, now I ask you all: how will you use what you've learned in this class in the real world?  We all come from diverse majors, but I think we could all pull something from this that would help us in our careers.  I know personally this class has made me see patterns in my own poetry that echo the exact things that I dislike in certain poems of Tolkien's.  This allows me to look more critically at my poetry and make changes I might not have known to make before.  How about you?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Humor in Tolkien

One thing we didn't discuss in depth is Tolkien's writing style. In his essays, he has (in my opinion) a very scholarly and often difficult to read writing style. I think his fiction is much more readable. Occasionally he will go off on long descriptive paragraphs, but I don't mind them so much. I think that The Hobbit seems like a simpler style than The Lord of the Rings, probably because it is a children's book.

One of my favorite parts of Tolkien's writing style and voice is his humor. Much like C.S. Lewis, every once in a while, there will be a witty little comment or joke that creates a lighter tone. Mainly, I'm thinking of the opening chapter of The Hobbit. The first paragraph isn't laugh-out-loud funny, but it's still humorous (I'm trying to think of synonyms for "funny" so I don't say it 88 times). The entire opening chapter is full of little comments that create a light and amusing tone. My favorite part of the chapter is the part when Tolkien tells how Golf was invented:

"He charged the ranks of the goblins of Mount Gram in the Battle of the Green Fields, and knocked their king Golfimbul's head clean off with a wooden club. It sailed a hundred yards through the air and went down a rabbit-hole, and in this way the battle was won and the game of Golf invented at the same moment."

LOTR is more serious overall, but there's still some comic relief (mostly from Merry and Pippin).

Why do you think it's important that Tolkien interjects humor every once in a while? What would the effect be on LOTR if it was written like The Hobbit? Are there any funny lines from his other stories that you liked (LOTR, I think"Leaf by Niggle" might have some, etc.)?

Sam's Visions?

Recently I was looking through ROTK for one of my projects. I came across the scene on Mount Doom where Frodo and Sam encounter Gollum again. Gollum tries to take the ring from Frodo, and after Frodo fights Gollum off, Sam has a vision (sort of?):

Then suddenly, as before under the eaves of the Emyn Muil, Sam saw these two rivals with other vision. A crouching shape, scarcely more than the shadow of a living thing, a creature now wholly ruined and defeated, yet filled with a hideous lust and rage; and before it stood stern, untouchable now by pity, a figure robed in white, but at its breast it held a wheel of fire. Out of the fire there spoke a commanding voice. 

'Begone, and trouble me no more! If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom.'

The crouching shape backed away, terror in its blinking eyes, and yet at the same time insatiable desire. (ROTK 237)

The scene interested me because of our discussion on the Ring's binding power and how Gollum falls into the fires of Mount Doom. (I think Tulkas/Elijah posted about this a couple of weeks ago.) Gollum indeed does try to take the Ring from Frodo again, and he is cast into the Fire of Doom. I looked back to the scene at the Emyn Muil because I couldn't remember exactly what Sam saw here. This is the scene where Frodo is making Gollum swear by the Ring:

For a moment it appeared to Sam that his master had grown and Gollum had shrunk: a tall stern shadow, a mighty lord who hid his brightness in grey cloud, and at his feet a little whining dog. Yet the two were in some way akin and not alien: they could reach one another's minds. (TT 249-250)

I'm not really sure what to think about these visions. Why does Sam see them? Is it because he's the only other person there, or is there another reason? What is the significance? Are they visions from the past or are they showing a deeper, almost supernatural level of reality?

Did we miss anything?

We've covered so much this semester and all of it has been extremely valuable to Tolkien. However, I was wondering if anybody had any previous works by him that they liked that we never got to. Before this class, I had no idea that he had produced so many works and I'm wondering if there are still more that are worth exploring. Any suggestions?

Thursday, December 3, 2015


I know most of us discussed this today in class, but in case you missed it or wanted to see them all laid out: What is your pseudonym? Out in the Primary World, I, Aule, am Jess.

Also, on a more serious note of discussion, what do you think of using the pseudonyms and/or the class blog? I've done this before in another of Dr. Donovan's classes, and I think the pseudonyms are fun and mysterious, but I'm not sure if this class needed them since we all got along so well. The blogging adds a unique dimension to the class, but to be honest I struggled this semester with keeping up with my blog quota. (I think most of us did!)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Gollum's classification as good or evil could send a man to prison!

Alright, everyone. This links to a story questioning whether Gollum is a good character or a bad character. We have discussed this in class before, briefly, but what do you think about all this? Did this doctor insult the Turkish head of state by associating him with Gollum (please note the doctor mentions not to include appearance in this evaluation).

Is Gollum more good? Is he more evil?
Is he the real hero?

Now Argue.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A New Shadow in Middle-earth

Tolkien spent a great deal of time building the world of Middle-earth, developing languages, cultures, calendars, myths, legends, histories and stories. But, as Tolkien noted, and as apparent in 'Leaf by Niggle' this creation within his mortal life time was incomplete. He could work tirelessly on the one 'leaf' that was stories, but the tree and the lands were lost to him. He began many parts, but only a few were ever truly completed.

Before Tolkien died, he began work on something which is known as 'The New Shadow', a story which supposedly starts one hundred years after the end of the Lord of the Rings. Tolkien only penned 13 pages before abandoning the project, describing it as "sinister and depressing". He eventually states that it was "not worth doing."

Do you think the Lord of the Rings could have a sequel? If so, what do you think it would necessarily be about? If not, why not? Tolkien at least attempted it, even if he eventually abandoned it. Would you have wanted to read another story set in the same universe?

Holidays in Middle-earth

Seeing as we've just come off of a Thanksgiving Break, and soon to be in a Winter Break, during which Christmas and New Years will occur, alongside other Holidays such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc. I feel that it is a pertinent topic to discuss some of the Holidays within Middle-earth.

Through the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit we hear of only a few. Durin's Day is one, celebrating the Dwarvish New Year, Yule 1 and Yule 2, and Mid-Year's Day are others that we hear of being celebrated in the Shire.

My questions unto you is three fold. First, what do you think Holiday traditions are like within the Shire, Rohan, Gondor, Imladris, etc.? Secondly, since we hear so little of other Holidays and many days pass without mention within the stories, do you think there are traditional holidays within the many cultures that we never hear about? If so, what might they be like?