Discussion:
Lord of the Rings Without WWII
(too old to reply)
m***@willamette.edu
2007-11-12 17:53:06 UTC
Permalink
Tolkien swore up and down that Lord of the Rings was not an allegory
for WWII but let's try a WI experiment about that. POD: Hitler dies
in 1931, the Nazis never take over Germany. Germany throws off most
of the Versailles limitations in the 1930's, but at a slower pace than
in OTL. There is no general European war.

Now, back in the British Isle's Professor Tolkien manages to find the
energy to start writing the Lord of the Rings, pretty much around the
same time as OTL. Without WWII, do you think the story would be
pretty much the same? Or do you think that WWII influenced Lord of
the Rings, despite Tolkien's statements?

--
Mike Ralls
Robert J. Kolker
2007-11-12 18:01:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Tolkien swore up and down that Lord of the Rings was not an allegory
for WWII but let's try a WI experiment about that. POD: Hitler dies
in 1931, the Nazis never take over Germany. Germany throws off most
of the Versailles limitations in the 1930's, but at a slower pace than
in OTL. There is no general European war.
Now, back in the British Isle's Professor Tolkien manages to find the
energy to start writing the Lord of the Rings, pretty much around the
same time as OTL. Without WWII, do you think the story would be
pretty much the same? Or do you think that WWII influenced Lord of
the Rings, despite Tolkien's statements?
--
Mike Ralls
Tolkien's war experience is from The Great War, in which he fought, and
from which he survived. He was working on is opus, long before Hitler.

Bob Kolker
Rich Rostrom
2007-11-12 20:34:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Tolkien swore up and down that Lord of the Rings was not an allegory
for WWII but let's try a WI experiment about that. POD: Hitler dies
in 1931, the Nazis never take over Germany. Germany throws off most
of the Versailles limitations in the 1930's, but at a slower pace than
in OTL. There is no general European war.
Now, back in the British Isle's Professor Tolkien manages to find the
energy to start writing the Lord of the Rings, pretty much around the
same time as OTL. Without WWII, do you think the story would be
pretty much the same? Or do you think that WWII influenced Lord of
the Rings, despite Tolkien's statements?
--
Mike Ralls
There is no contradiction between

"this was not an allegory about WW II"

and

"WW II had an influence on this work"

One question I would ask is how much
the final part (The Scouring of the
Shire) was influenced by events in
postwar Britain. No WW II - no Labor
government, no rationing...
--
| He had a shorter, more scraggly, and even less |
| flattering beard than Yassir Arafat, and Escalante |
| never conceived that such a thing was possible. |
| -- William Goldman, _Heat_ |
n***@hotmail.com
2007-11-13 08:07:10 UTC
Permalink
Post by Rich Rostrom
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Tolkien swore up and down that Lord of the Rings was not an allegory
for WWII but let's try a WI experiment about that. POD: Hitler dies
in 1931, the Nazis never take over Germany. Germany throws off most
of the Versailles limitations in the 1930's, but at a slower pace than
in OTL. There is no general European war.
Now, back in the British Isle's Professor Tolkien manages to find the
energy to start writing the Lord of the Rings, pretty much around the
same time as OTL. Without WWII, do you think the story would be
pretty much the same? Or do you think that WWII influenced Lord of
the Rings, despite Tolkien's statements?
--
Mike Ralls
There is no contradiction between
"this was not an allegory about WW II"
and
"WW II had an influence on this work"
One question I would ask is how much
the final part (The Scouring of the
Shire) was influenced by events in
postwar Britain. No WW II - no Labor
government, no rationing...
Not so much. It was influenced more by the creeping urbanisation of
the countryside that was already taking place in the 1930s.

Cheers,
Nigel.
s***@yahoo.com
2007-11-13 10:05:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by n***@hotmail.com
Not so much. It was influenced more by the creeping urbanisation of
the countryside that was already taking place in the 1930s.
Yeah. Tolkein wasn't anti-Labor; he was anti-modernity. He longed
for the green England of his childhood. He liked trees and hated
machines.

You'll notice that in the trilogy, anything remotely mechanical or
technological is associated with capital-E Evil.


Doug M.
Robert J. Kolker
2007-11-13 13:07:05 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@yahoo.com
Yeah. Tolkein wasn't anti-Labor; he was anti-modernity. He longed
for the green England of his childhood. He liked trees and hated
machines.
I wonder if his favorite hymn was -Jerusalem- by Wm Blake.

Bob Kolker
m***@willamette.edu
2007-11-13 19:55:55 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@yahoo.com
Post by n***@hotmail.com
Not so much. It was influenced more by the creeping urbanisation of
the countryside that was already taking place in the 1930s.
Yeah. Tolkein wasn't anti-Labor; he was anti-modernity. He longed
for the green England of his childhood. He liked trees and hated
machines.
You'll notice that in the trilogy, anything remotely mechanical or
technological is associated with capital-E Evil.
So we'll still have the anti-modernity in the trilogy, but will it be
focused as much on the War of the Ring as in OTL without the real life
WWII going on?

I'm no Tolkien scholar, but I do know that significant parts of the
trilogy were written on the fly, and hence more likely to be changed
in an ATL, and that other parts were pretty deep rooted. As an
example of the former, Tolkien didn't know that Strider was King
Arragon until about the same time as the reader found out. That is to
say, when he first wrote about him Tolkien _didn't know_ who he really
was, and in this ATL it's perfectly possibly that Strider will remain
just Strider, not a King in hiding, but merely a Ranger. That Ranger,
rather than leading an Army in defense of the West, might instead stay
with the Hobbits as they sneak from place to place. Might we see a
LOTR where instead of a war going on, we have a threat of war or a
possible build-up to war? Because even without Hitler, I think a fear
of war will be prevalent in the *1930's and *1940's.

Would such a story be likely to be less popular than OTL's trilogy?
IMO, probably. Writing a classic like the LOTR is _hard_, and I'd say
that on the whole, any significant changes are likely to make such a
work less of a classic, if for no other reason than that classics are
so rare.

--
Mike Ralls
s***@yahoo.com
2007-11-13 20:24:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by m***@willamette.edu
I'm no Tolkien scholar, but I do know that significant parts of the
trilogy were written on the fly, and hence more likely to be changed
in an ATL, and that other parts were pretty deep rooted.
Sure.

Here's another thing: Tolkien was a perfectionist. That's why there's
such a huge discrepancy between the amount of stuff he wrote (almost
literally a room full, if you count the letters) and the amount of
stuff he published while alive (wouldn't fill one shelf). His son
Christopher has spent thirty years now putting the pieces together,
and the job still isn't really done.

But TLOTR was done relatively fast -- from start to finish, less than
fifteen years. By Tolkien's standards, this was "November Is Write A
Novel Month" blinding speed. (Remember, he grappled with the
Silmarillion for twice that long, and never did finish it.) And the
bulk of the writing seems to have been done during the war years.

This makes me wonder if, absent WWII, there would have been a LOTR
trilogy /at all/. The hypothesis here -- untestable, so really a
speculation -- is that the war gave him a sense of urgency. (Okay,
fifteen years. Relative urgency.)
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Would such a story be likely to be less popular than OTL's trilogy?
IMO, probably. Writing a classic like the LOTR is _hard_, and I'd say
that on the whole, any significant changes are likely to make such a
work less of a classic, if for no other reason than that classics are
so rare.
I'm less certain. TLOTR is great stuff, but it could bear improving.
(Yes, I have some specific ideas. No, I'm not getting into them
here.)

On the other hand, you could argue that Tolkien was Tolkien -- a very
distinct personality, gentle but very stubborn, and with deeply fixed
ideas. So that while the details of TLOTR might have been very
different, the "flavor" would have been about the same. Perhaps.


Doug M.
d***@supanet.com
2007-11-14 14:40:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@yahoo.com
This makes me wonder if, absent WWII, there would have been a LOTR
trilogy /at all/. The hypothesis here -- untestable, so really a
speculation -- is that the war gave him a sense of urgency. (Okay,
fifteen years. Relative urgency.)
You're suggesting JRRT had the urgency of an elf....
m***@willamette.edu
2007-11-14 17:04:17 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@yahoo.com
This makes me wonder if, absent WWII, there would have been a LOTR
trilogy /at all/.
IMO, there is a good chance that we would not have LOTR at all in a no
WWII TL, but in that case all that gives us is a No LOTR TL with some
really huge side-effects.
Post by s***@yahoo.com
The hypothesis here -- untestable, so really a
speculation -- is that the war gave him a sense of urgency.
IIRC correctly, wasn't he sending chapters to his son who was serving
overseas as he wrote them? Perhaps we could have his son go overseas
for some job in a Britain that is still stuck in a depression into the
1940's to give him motivation.
Post by s***@yahoo.com
I'm less certain. TLOTR is great stuff, but it could bear improving.
Well _everything_ could bear improving, but I think that when you are
dealing with a work of fiction more popular than 99.999% of the books
that have ever been written, that the chances are that any given
change will make it less popular rather than more popular.
Post by s***@yahoo.com
(Yes, I have some specific ideas. No, I'm not getting into them
here.)
If not here, where? If not now, when? There probably won't be
another Tolkien thread for a long while, if ever, on SHWI.

Let me just ask you though: Do you have any PODs that could bring
them about?
Post by s***@yahoo.com
ideas. So that while the details of TLOTR might have been very
different, the "flavor" would have been about the same. Perhaps.
That's basically my position.

--
Mike Ralls
Rich Rostrom
2007-11-14 18:56:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by m***@willamette.edu
a work of fiction more popular than 99.999% of the books
that have ever been written,
99.9999%, probably.

I estimate there have been a billion books written.

LoTR would be in the top 1,000. Possibly the top
100, but I would be reluctant to assert that.
--
| He had a shorter, more scraggly, and even less |
| flattering beard than Yassir Arafat, and Escalante |
| never conceived that such a thing was possible. |
| -- William Goldman, _Heat_ |
Les
2007-11-14 14:12:31 UTC
Permalink
On Nov 13, 3:55 pm, ***@willamette.edu wrote:

(stuff deleted)
Post by m***@willamette.edu
So we'll still have the anti-modernity in the trilogy, but will it be
focused as much on the War of the Ring as in OTL without the real life
WWII going on?
Tolkien still had WW1 in his past to draw upon, and much of the Lord
of the Rings needed a Big Battle to make Frodo and Samwise's quest
harder and more believable. Tolkien managed to explain why only a
small fellowship could have a chance in destroying the One Ring, but
still needed a reason why some of the more powerful and wiser
characters could not participate in the quest. Having them fighting
for their lives against Sauron's hoards was the best explanation.
Post by m***@willamette.edu
I'm no Tolkien scholar, but I do know that significant parts of the
trilogy were written on the fly, and hence more likely to be changed
in an ATL, and that other parts were pretty deep rooted. As an
example of the former, Tolkien didn't know that Strider was King
Arragon until about the same time as the reader found out. That is to
say, when he first wrote about him Tolkien _didn't know_ who he really
was, and in this ATL it's perfectly possibly that Strider will remain
just Strider, not a King in hiding, but merely a Ranger. That Ranger,
rather than leading an Army in defense of the West, might instead stay
with the Hobbits as they sneak from place to place.
...which ends up making the Quest easier. Frodo and Samwise were out
of their element, relying on a treacherous guide, and beyond any hope
of assistance from their friends and allies other than the kit on
their back.
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Might we see a
LOTR where instead of a war going on, we have a threat of war or a
possible build-up to war? Because even without Hitler, I think a fear
of war will be prevalent in the *1930's and *1940's.
It would change the entire premise of the book. Sauron was a Big Bad
Guy because he had a Big Bad history, combined with a re-emerging
menace. Now, it may be possible to omit Sauron's first Rise and Fall,
but Tolkien will need at the very least a rising menace to necessitate
the destruction of the One Ring.
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Would such a story be likely to be less popular than OTL's trilogy?
(rest of post deleted)

Probably, if Tolkien did remove the elements as you suggested without
providing any reasonable substitutes, then much of the plot simply
does not make sense. Then again, if Tolkien's substitute had a
analogy in the current events of the time, it could still be a
classic. Granted, WW2 is not likely to be forgotten in the near
future, while lesser events would be, but people still read Swift's "A
Modest Proposal" as a classic even though they have a dim
understanding of the Irish Potato Famine.
m***@willamette.edu
2007-11-14 17:15:20 UTC
Permalink
Post by Les
small fellowship could have a chance in destroying the One Ring, but
still needed a reason why some of the more powerful and wiser
characters could not participate in the quest. Having them fighting
for their lives against Sauron's hoards was the best explanation.
Perhaps. But there are other possibilities; like death.

Have a couple of the most powerful characters die, or get seriously
wounded. That would make the cost of the ordeal more real than having
a bunch of nameless soldiers die in a big war, because we would see
the deaths of the characters we had grown to know and care for, rather
than a bunch of redshirts.
Post by Les
Post by m***@willamette.edu
just Strider, not a King in hiding, but merely a Ranger. That Ranger,
rather than leading an Army in defense of the West, might instead stay
with the Hobbits as they sneak from place to place.
...which ends up making the Quest easier.
Not if you have the Fellowship encounter more and more troubles that
are harder and harder to overcome as it progresses across the land.
If the party has a couple of higher level members, you just crank up
the encounter tables to compensate.
Post by Les
Probably, if Tolkien did remove the elements as you suggested without
providing any reasonable substitutes, then much of the plot simply
does not make sense. Then again, if Tolkien's substitute had a
analogy in the current events of the time, it could still be a
classic.
Yea, I assume that he would substitute _something_ rather than just
have an empty hole of a plot.

--
Mike Ralls
Les
2007-11-14 20:12:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Post by Les
small fellowship could have a chance in destroying the One Ring, but
still needed a reason why some of the more powerful and wiser
characters could not participate in the quest. Having them fighting
for their lives against Sauron's hoards was the best explanation.
Perhaps. But there are other possibilities; like death.
This is a risky thing to introduce into what Tolkien originally
designed as a children's series.
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Have a couple of the most powerful characters die, or get seriously
wounded. That would make the cost of the ordeal more real than having
a bunch of nameless soldiers die in a big war, because we would see
the deaths of the characters we had grown to know and care for, rather
than a bunch of redshirts.
This the final volume becomes a series of tragic deaths, given the
original size of the Brotherhood.
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Post by Les
Post by m***@willamette.edu
just Strider, not a King in hiding, but merely a Ranger.
BTW, this would contradict one of the themes in LotR: seemingly minor
people have more going for them than a first glance would warrant.
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Post by Les
Post by m***@willamette.edu
That Ranger,
rather than leading an Army in defense of the West, might instead stay
with the Hobbits as they sneak from place to place.
...which ends up making the Quest easier.
Not if you have the Fellowship encounter more and more troubles that
are harder and harder to overcome as it progresses across the land.
Several problems:

- Adding Aragon (or any other character) gives Frodo and Samwise a
strength they did not have in the OTL novel. It also serves to muddy
Frodo's inner conflict against the Ring.

- It also makes the plot a lot more like the typical fantasy story,
and it serves to reduce the scope of the story.

- It tends to alter Frodo's status somewhat. Frodo, Samwise and
Gollum went mainly unnoticed into Sauron's domain mainly because they
were literally too small and insignificant to be noticed. Having them
part of a more significant team diminishes their achievement.

- It simplifies the plot to "villian/obstacle of the chapter," at
which point we are not having anything remotely like the original
book.
Post by m***@willamette.edu
If the party has a couple of higher level members, you just crank up
the encounter tables to compensate.
(rest of post deleted)

So, rather than have a world-wide conflict ultimately being decided on
the events of three Hobbits, we have a more typical Conan-type plot.
Somehow I don't see this becoming a literary classic.
m***@willamette.edu
2007-11-14 23:15:09 UTC
Permalink
Post by Les
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Perhaps. But there are other possibilities; like death.
This is a risky thing to introduce into what Tolkien originally
designed as a children's series.
Well, it's also kind of risky to add about thirteen centuries worth of
back story, a long detailed history, and multiple made-up languages
into something originally designed as a children's series too, don't
you think?
Post by Les
This the final volume becomes a series of tragic deaths, given the
original size of the Brotherhood.
Tolkien was a prof of the ancient epics, and didn't plenty of those
had lots of deaths near the end?
Post by Les
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Post by m***@willamette.edu
just Strider, not a King in hiding, but merely a Ranger.
BTW, this would contradict one of the themes in LotR: seemingly minor
people have more going for them than a first glance would warrant.
Not necessarily. Strider could easily prove that he had more going
for him than at first glance without having to be a King to do it.
Sam did in our LotR, after all.
Post by Les
- Adding Aragon (or any other character) gives Frodo and Samwise a
strength they did not have in the OTL novel. It also serves to muddy
Frodo's inner conflict against the Ring.
Do we know at which point in the writing of LotR that Tolkien decided
that Frodo and Sam should go it alone?
Post by Les
- It also makes the plot a lot more like the typical fantasy story,
and it serves to reduce the scope of the story.
A typical fantasy story now, how much so in the late 1930's?

And of course Tolkien would still be Tolkien, and even if he wrote a
typical fantasy story, it would still have his touches.
Post by Les
- It tends to alter Frodo's status somewhat. Frodo, Samwise and
Gollum went mainly unnoticed into Sauron's domain mainly because they
were literally too small and insignificant to be noticed. Having them
part of a more significant team diminishes their achievement.
Eh. According to the council, the were the right size to sneak into
Sauron's domain because the Fellowship was _intended_ to sneak into
Mordo with all of the 9 in it, it's only plot that caused it them to
break up.
Post by Les
- It simplifies the plot to "villian/obstacle of the chapter," at
which point we are not having anything remotely like the original
book.
That's also pretty much what The Hobbit was, wasn't it?
Post by Les
Post by m***@willamette.edu
If the party has a couple of higher level members, you just crank up
the encounter tables to compensate.
(rest of post deleted)
So, rather than have a world-wide conflict ultimately being decided on
the events of three Hobbits, we have a more typical Conan-type plot.
Somehow I don't see this becoming a literary classic.
It might not. I said that it was probable that it would be less
popular than OTL's trilogy.

--
Mike Ralls
David Johnson
2007-11-15 01:46:37 UTC
Permalink
Amongst everything else Christopher Tolkien has dug out of his Father's
archives, he has a series called "The History of Middle Earth" in which
he tries to show all the earlier drafts of JRR's works. Volume 6-9 covers
the LotR. You can - if you slog through it - see the changes from the
book being "Hobbit 2.0" to the actual adult fantasy it became.

Some bits never really changed from draft to draft (apart from minor
edits), but others changed a lot.

And - obviously - if you're going to "What If" LotR, this would be a
pretty good place to start.

-----------

The Return of the Shadow: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part One
(The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 6) - ISBN-13: 978-0618083572

Treason of Isengard: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Two (The
History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 7) - ISBN-13: 978-0395515624

The War of the Ring: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Three
(The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 8) - ISBN-13: 978-0618083596

Sauron Defeated: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Four (The
History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 9) - ISBN-13: 978-0395606490

-----------

David
--
_______________________________________________________________________
David Johnson home.earthlink.net/~trolleyfan

"So many of you come time and time again to watch this final end of
everything which I think is really wonderful and then to return home to
your own eras and raise families and strive for new and better societies
and fight terrible wars for what you know is right, it gives one real
hope for the whole future of lifekind...

...Except of course we know it hasn't got one."
Rich Rostrom
2007-11-15 04:42:37 UTC
Permalink
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Eh. According to the council, the were the right size to sneak into
Sauron's domain because the Fellowship was _intended_ to sneak into
Mordo with all of the 9 in it, it's only plot that caused it them to
break up.
No, that was not stated.

In fact, how the Ring was to be carried into
to the Fire was never addressed, a remarkably
foolish lack of planning. (Especially since
the one person amoing living Good folk who
had ever been to the Sammath Naur was present:
Elrond.)

Aragorn and Boromir were included in the
Fellowship because their route to Minas
Tirith ran with the Ringbearer's route
for several hundred miles.
--
| He had a shorter, more scraggly, and even less |
| flattering beard than Yassir Arafat, and Escalante |
| never conceived that such a thing was possible. |
| -- William Goldman, _Heat_ |
Les
2007-11-16 15:46:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Post by Les
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Perhaps. But there are other possibilities; like death.
This is a risky thing to introduce into what Tolkien originally
designed as a children's series.
Well, it's also kind of risky to add about thirteen centuries worth of
back story, a long detailed history, and multiple made-up languages
into something originally designed as a children's series too, don't
you think?
Not in the least. Tolkien first invented the languages and histories,
then referenced them. Now, if he started the series as combination
history and language texts, that would not only be risky but suicidal.
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Post by Les
This the final volume becomes a series of tragic deaths, given the
original size of the Brotherhood.
Tolkien was a prof of the ancient epics, and didn't plenty of those
had lots of deaths near the end?
The ancient epics were not originally designed as children's stories.
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Post by Les
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Post by m***@willamette.edu
just Strider, not a King in hiding, but merely a Ranger.
BTW, this would contradict one of the themes in LotR: seemingly minor
people have more going for them than a first glance would warrant.
Not necessarily. Strider could easily prove that he had more going
for him than at first glance without having to be a King to do it.
Sam did in our LotR, after all.
How can Strider simultaneously be "merely a Ranger," yet have a lot
more going for him than at first glance?
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Post by Les
- Adding Aragon (or any other character) gives Frodo and Samwise a
strength they did not have in the OTL novel. It also serves to muddy
Frodo's inner conflict against the Ring.
Do we know at which point in the writing of LotR that Tolkien decided
that Frodo and Sam should go it alone?
I'd probably say Tolkien decided to do it when he wrote the breaking
up of the Fellowship, perhaps as far back as removing Gandolf from the
team.
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Post by Les
- It also makes the plot a lot more like the typical fantasy story,
and it serves to reduce the scope of the story.
A typical fantasy story now, how much so in the late 1930's?
It would be pretty much like the pulp fiction of the Conan series.
Post by m***@willamette.edu
And of course Tolkien would still be Tolkien, and even if he wrote a
typical fantasy story, it would still have his touches.
OK, it would become an overly prose-laden, well-fleshed out in
background, "Hobbit" sequel.
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Post by Les
- It tends to alter Frodo's status somewhat. Frodo, Samwise and
Gollum went mainly unnoticed into Sauron's domain mainly because they
were literally too small and insignificant to be noticed. Having them
part of a more significant team diminishes their achievement.
Eh. According to the council, the were the right size to sneak into
Sauron's domain because the Fellowship was _intended_ to sneak into
Mordo with all of the 9 in it, it's only plot that caused it them to
break up.
Tolkien broke it up for that very reason. Frodo's lost struggle
against the Ring would not have been nearly as catastrophic had there
been more of the Fellowship that could look for him. As it was, all
Frodo had was the enemy Gollum and the hapless Samwise who had no idea
what to do next.
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Post by Les
- It simplifies the plot to "villian/obstacle of the chapter," at
which point we are not having anything remotely like the original
book.
That's also pretty much what The Hobbit was, wasn't it?
Yes, and that is one of the reasons why "The Lord of the Rings" is
regarded as the greater work.
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Post by Les
Post by m***@willamette.edu
If the party has a couple of higher level members, you just crank up
the encounter tables to compensate.
(rest of post deleted)
So, rather than have a world-wide conflict ultimately being decided on
the events of three Hobbits, we have a more typical Conan-type plot.
Somehow I don't see this becoming a literary classic.
It might not. I said that it was probable that it would be less
popular than OTL's trilogy.
That assumes that his altered text goes along the above suggestions,
rather than adapt to some other "non-WW2" backdrop. Some of the WW2
parallels of the LoTR had with WW2 was the once-vanquished-now-
stronger-than-ever-evil. Tolkien still has his WW1 experience to draw
on, so it is still likely he can draw on something like a nation
corrupted by an evil influence, possibly with a bloody stalemate that
the mightiest soldier and wizard cannot break. That serves to keep
much of the original LoTR's plotline, including the elements that IMHO
made it a classic.
Rich Rostrom
2007-11-14 18:48:52 UTC
Permalink
Post by Les
people still read Swift's "A
Modest Proposal" as a classic even though they have a dim
understanding of the Irish Potato Famine.
Which it had nothing to do with. The famine
was in the 1840s; "A Modest Proposal" appeared
in 1729.

Ireland was at the time miserably poor and
subject to oppressive British laws, which
is what Swift was mocking.
--
| He had a shorter, more scraggly, and even less |
| flattering beard than Yassir Arafat, and Escalante |
| never conceived that such a thing was possible. |
| -- William Goldman, _Heat_ |
j***@faf.mil.fi
2007-11-14 09:49:25 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@yahoo.com
You'll notice that in the trilogy, anything remotely mechanical or
technological is associated with capital-E Evil.
I wouldn't go so far as to include those "anything remotely"-words.
The high craftsmanship and skill of the dwarves and the master elves
are valued and presented as fundamentally admirable, even though even
in those cases, there's the inevitable dark side of how this great
skill is inadvertedly twisted so that it produces dark, undesirable
results.

About modernity, one thing that I've always found interesting is that
even though Tolkien was a medievalist, a good part of the setting in
the "Lord of the Rings" is actually not medieval, but_early modern_.
The Shire, for example, has a perfectly functioning administrative
system and elaborate legal practices ("seven signatures on a will, in
red ink"), a society of independent farmers and bourgeoisie, and of
course, they grow New World crops such as potatoes, cotton and
tobacco. They have a functioning postal system. They read books, which
suggests that they may have invented some form of printing. They even
_play golf_ in the Northern Farthing, which, judging by those few
throwaway lines, probably looks a bit like early-modern Scotland.

The outside world is strikingly backward in comparison, but doesn't
look consistently medieval, either. Esgaroth appears as a renaissance
city-state, and Gondor looks more like a late classical realm. The
_rohirrim_ may speak Anglo-Saxon, but the Kingdom of Rohan with its
manors and high-class military organization in itself is definitely
_late_ medieval, very much post-Norman.

An anachronistic world, in other words. Which leads to the question:
what if the fantasy literature that followed Tolkien was also placed
primarily in an early-modern setting comparable to the 16th or 17th
century, instead of a "medieval" world? Let's double-barrel this and
assume that Robert E. Howard decides to focus on Solomon Kane instead
of Kull and Conan. So, we'll get fantasy literature which seeks its
primary inspiration from the Elizabethan and Cromwellian England, the
Great-Power era Sweden, the Thirty Years' War, and so on. Besides
having frigates on the Earthsea, what other effects could there be?

About Mike's original inquiry, like most others here, I believe that
the First World War was more significant in Tolkien's experience, but
there were a few direct effects of the Second World War which are, in
my opinion, most visible in the First Part of the Trilogy. I don't
believe that Sauron was an allegory of Hitler, but that described flow
of refugees westwards was, I think, a direct result from the pre-war
experience. And I doubt that the part where the Nazgul knocks on Fatty
Bolger's door late in the night would look _quite_ so much like an
allegory of a Gestapo or NKVD official intruding to someone's home if
the Europe of the 1930s and the 1940s had not been what it was like.

(Of course, the scene may have also resulted from something completely
different. Even though Tolkien did leave South Africa at the age of
three, perhaps that "Open, in the name of Mordor"-part was actually an
inadverted allegory of some Johannesburg policeman checking up a
Kaffer household?)


Cheers,

J. J.
s***@yahoo.com
2007-11-14 14:11:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
I wouldn't go so far as to include those "anything remotely"-words.
The high craftsmanship and skill of the dwarves and the master elves
are valued and presented as fundamentally admirable
Yes, but it's clear that these things are hand-crafted. No wicked
industrial processes or machinery.
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
The Shire, for example, has a perfectly functioning administrative
system and elaborate legal practices ("seven signatures on a will, in
red ink"), a society of independent farmers and bourgeoisie,
Hum. While I think you have part of a point, these are bad examples.
Saxon England, pre-Conquest, required paper documentation for a
variety of transactions (land transfers, for instance), and was much
more a society of small freeholders than the Norman state that
followed it.
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
They have a functioning postal system. They read books, which
suggests that they may have invented some form of printing.
As a great many people have pointed out, the Shire looks like an
idealized version of premodern England, with the highest and lowest
classes snipped off.
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
the Kingdom of Rohan with its
manors and high-class military organization in itself is definitely
_late_ medieval, very much post-Norman.
Demur. There are no towns, just strongholds. No roads, just endless
plains. No sign of trade (Tolkein didn't dislike trade, he just
wasn't interested in it). No money.

The social structure is much flatter than in a late medieval society
-- there seem to be only three ranks, Rider, leader, and King. No
peasants or serfs, no clerics (Wormtongue is the only one who's not a
man of arms). There must be artisans but we never see them.
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
the part where the Nazgul knocks on Fatty
Bolger's door late in the night
Also, the people cowering from the hostile fighter planes... er,
Nazgul. Sure.
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
(Of course, the scene may have also resulted from something completely
different. Even though Tolkien did leave South Africa at the age of
three, perhaps that "Open, in the name of Mordor"-part was actually an
inadverted allegory of some Johannesburg policeman checking up a
Kaffer household?)
IMS, the epithet "strawhead" -- which the Dunlanders use agains the
Rohirrim -- was one of the few things in the trilogy that could be
traced to Africa.


Doug M.
j***@faf.mil.fi
2007-11-14 15:17:55 UTC
Permalink
s***@yahoo.com
2007-11-14 17:52:51 UTC
Permalink
"The poorest went on living in
burrows of the most primitive kind, mere holes indeed".
IMS that's from _The Hobbit_? Because I'd hesitate to take everything
in TH as canon. "Thus inventing the game of golf," forsooth.
The lack of urban centres I'll grant you, but the second statement is
incorrect and the last one debatable. Check the map, and you'll notice
that the Great West Road runs right through Rohan.
No roads that we ever see, then.
_Rohirrim_ definitely do use gold also in
transactions, and not just as an adornment on the Meduseld.
Meduseld is straight out of _Beowulf_, IMS.
We're reading things a bit differently, then. One, there may not be
serfs, but there are peasants
I'd like to see a cite for that.
(and Freca was half-blood, indicating yet another category)
This pops up a number of times. Tolkein was intrigued by the whole
concept of half-bloods, for good and for bad. Freca, of course, and
then the elf-human crosses. The Kin-Strife of old Gondor, which arose
because one King married a "lesser breed". (IMS the resulting princes
were Numenorean enough -- long-lived and noble -- but their relatives
tried to seize the throne anyhow.) Saruman's orc-human Uruk-Hai.
Pardon?
The scenes in Minas Tirith, when the Nazgul fly overhead, filling
everyone with fear and despair. That strikes me as possibly inspired
by scenes from the various battles of the early war years.
IMS, the epithet "strawhead" -- which the Dunlanders use agains the Rohirrim --
was one of the few things in the trilogy that could be traced to Africa.
Who traced it, and what were those other "few things", purely out of
interest?
I do not recall. But IMS, the word "Gondor" was another -- it was a
real city, in Ethiopia.


Doug M.
Peter Bruells
2007-11-14 17:57:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@yahoo.com
"The poorest went on living in
burrows of the most primitive kind, mere holes indeed".
IMS that's from _The Hobbit_?
No, it's from the prologuee, "Concerning Hobbits".
Rich Rostrom
2007-11-14 19:05:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@yahoo.com
I do not recall. But IMS, the word "Gondor" was another --
it was a real city, in Ethiopia.
"Gondar" is a city in Ethiopia.

But "Gondor" is a traditional name for a mythological
city or country in European - used in a number of
obscure texts. Mark Twain used it in his essay "The
Curious Republic of Gondor."
--
| He had a shorter, more scraggly, and even less |
| flattering beard than Yassir Arafat, and Escalante |
| never conceived that such a thing was possible. |
| -- William Goldman, _Heat_ |
j***@faf.mil.fi
2007-11-15 09:07:22 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@yahoo.com
"The poorest went on living in burrows of the most primitive kind,
mere holes indeed".
IMS that's from _The Hobbit_?
No, it's not. It's straight from the introduction to the "Lord of the
Rings".

Apart from the reference to the golf, pretty much everything that I
described was either from the introduction to the trilogy or from the
first chapter of Bilbo's birthday party.
Post by s***@yahoo.com
We're reading things a bit differently, then. One, there may not be
serfs, but there are peasants
I'd like to see a cite for that.
Um, I just gave you one, in that same passage. Why did you snip from
the middle? Let's repeat:

"One, there may not be serfs, but there are peasants, and there is
even an indication of clear differences between wealthy land-owners
and smallholders. How
else do you explain the reference to Freca, who 'grew rich and
powerful, having wide lands on either side of the Adorn'?"

Caveat: we may be operating under different semantic meanings of the
word "peasant". Here, in Finland, the corresponding word means
primarily an independent farmer. As a wealthy land-owner, Freca
definitely seems to be one. But much like Wormtongue, he doesn't seem
to be an actual man-in-arms, and we're left with the impression that
he holds a seat in Helm's council primarily due to his wealth.
Post by s***@yahoo.com
The scenes in Minas Tirith, when the Nazgul fly overhead, filling everyone
with fear and despair. That strikes me as possibly inspired by scenes from
the various battles of the early war years.
Yes, I recognized the reference, obviously. I just wasn't sure if you
were actually serious about it. On the first reading, the comment "...
er, Nazgul. Sure" had a bit sarcastic sound.




Cheers,

J. J.
Rich Rostrom
2007-11-14 19:38:35 UTC
Permalink
As a great many people have pointed out, the Shire looks like an idealized version of
premodern England, with the highest and lowest classes snipped off.
I'd stick with my description of the Shire being "early modern",
something from the 17th-18th century. All the accessories are firmly
there. I mean, they have _umbrellas_. Apparently even used by men.
And a postal service, as you mentioned earlier.

But I think what Doug means here is "pre-industrial".
The scenery is so obvious that it's not too difficult to imagine the Mayor
of Michel Delving wearing a whig.
Umm, "whig" != "wig".
And the class division is also visibly there and is a bit more
extensive than what you're suggesting, I'd say. Even though the
spotlight is mostly on the well-to-do Hobbits, there are references to
those who don't do quite as well.
Well, one can't have gentry without peasantry or tenantry.

Though Tolkien portrays no hobbits lower than freeholders.
(Except maybe Sam's family, who have a small plot but mainly
work as hired gardeners.)

There is no difference of _kind_ between, say the Cotton
family and the Took family - the Tooks just have more land.

Merry refers to Farmer Cotton as "the chief person round here".

And Tolkien had a definitely post-medieval (and even
post-Victorian) attitude toward class distinctions.

Sam, the humble son of Gaffer Hamfast rises to be Mayor.

The post-LoTR tables show that Sam's daughter Goldilocks
marries Peregrine's son Faramir, the future Thain of the
Shire.
[Rohan:]
Demur. There are no towns, just strongholds. No roads, just endless plains. No
sign of trade (Tolkein didn't dislike trade, he just wasn't interested in it). No money.
The lack of urban centres I'll grant you, but the second statement is
incorrect and the last one debatable. Check the map, and you'll notice
that the Great West Road runs right through Rohan. And while they may
have no coinage (...which reminds me again that the Hobbits _do_ have
some sort of a monetary system, strangely enough, even though we don't
know where the mint is)
Good point. The coins circulate at least as far as
Bree - Barliman paid 30 silver pennies for Bill
Ferny's pony.

But they accept and exchange foreign coins quite
readily. For instance, Bilbo's profits from the
Erebor expedition, and his share of the trolls'
hoard.

But then in the real Middle Ages, any gold or
silver coin passed current by weight.
the _Rohirrim_ definitely do use gold also in
transactions, and not just as an adornment on the Meduseld.
The absence of trade, hm. Yes, it's absent, but they are not
unfamiliar with the concept. "Some years ago the Lord of the Black
Land wished to purchase horses of us at great price, but we refused
him".
IMHO the Rohirrim have money, it's just never mentioned.
The social structure is much flatter than in a late medieval society
-- there seem to be only three ranks, Rider, leader, and King. No
peasants or serfs, no clerics...
There are no clerics _anywhere_, for obvious reasons.
(Wormtongue is the only one who's not a
man of arms...)
But he is, at least nominally: Theoden orders him to
fetch his sword and ride with the Royal Household to
Westfold.
.There must be artisans but we never see them.
We only get a glimpse of Rohirrim society.
We're reading things a bit differently, then. One, there may not be
serfs, but there are peasants, and there is even an indication of
clear differences between wealthy land-owners and smallholders. How
else do you explain the reference to Freca, who "grew rich and
powerful, having wide lands on either side of the Adorn"?
Or Erkenbrand, Lord of Westfold?

But OTOH they build no stone structures, except
the Hornburg - Meduseld is all of wood and turf.

Definitely more Saxon than Norman.
--
| He had a shorter, more scraggly, and even less |
| flattering beard than Yassir Arafat, and Escalante |
| never conceived that such a thing was possible. |
| -- William Goldman, _Heat_ |
j***@faf.mil.fi
2007-11-15 09:34:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by Rich Rostrom
Umm, "whig" != "wig".
Well, you know, English isn't my first language.

[Googles for the etymology of "whig"]

Hm, okay, poor ignorant me. So, it's actually just short for
"Whiggamore"? Damn it, I always thought that it _had_ something to do
with wigs. Keep in mind, I'm from those parts of the world where the
political parties were once named "Hats" and "Caps".
Post by Rich Rostrom
There is no difference of _kind_ between, say the Cotton
family and the Took family - the Tooks just have more land.
... there is a small difference in kind when it comes to social
standing and the ethnic background. Even though the Thane has pretty
much only a symbolic position, the Tooks are still portrayed as the
most prominent family, and of course, they also have "Fallohide
blood". And they don't tolerate upstarts, as testified by Paladin
Took's attitude towards Lotho.

But other than that, you're right, the distinction is close to
nonexistent and the Tooks readily mingle and interact with the other
families. They're presented more or less as first among the equals.
Post by Rich Rostrom
IMHO the Rohirrim have money, it's just never mentioned.
Actually, you can find some references from between the lines, if you
read the appendixes closely. King Fengel's "lust for gold", for
example, and Túrin II sending a "rich weregild of gold" to King
Folcwine. So, even if they may not have coinage of their own, they
definitely use and recognize gold in transactions.
Post by Rich Rostrom
There are no clerics _anywhere_, for obvious reasons.
The Steward of Gondor would seem to have some kind of a symbolic
clerical role, as testified by his authority to summon Eru as the
witness. See "Cirion and Eorl" from the "Unfinished Tales". But other
than that, yep; no clerics, and no religion, apart from the Dwarven
beliefs and certain respect which is extended to burial grounds and
other "holy places" (cf. the status enjoyed by Halifirien, the "Holy
Mountain", among the _Rohirrim_).

And the traditions of the High Elves, of course, but that's not really
"religion" or "beliefs", but instead an actual primary _knowledge_ of
really being a part of a bigger plan.
Post by Rich Rostrom
But OTOH they build no stone structures, except
the Hornburg - Meduseld is all of wood and turf.
Dunharg/Dunharrow is also a stone structure, although at the moment, I
don't remember if they inherited that part of real estate from Gondor.


Cheers,

J. J.
Peter Bruells
2007-11-15 10:12:17 UTC
Permalink
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
Post by Rich Rostrom
IMHO the Rohirrim have money, it's just never mentioned.
Actually, you can find some references from between the lines, if you
read the appendixes closely. King Fengel's "lust for gold", for
example, and Túrin II sending a "rich weregild of gold" to King
Folcwine. So, even if they may not have coinage of their own, they
definitely use and recognize gold in transactions.
Isn't weregild = man + geld (i..e man-money), a kind of bloodmoney to
be paid as reparation?
j***@faf.mil.fi
2007-11-15 10:54:21 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter Bruells
Isn't weregild = man + geld (i..e man-money), a kind of bloodmoney to
be paid as reparation?
Yes, it's a compensation for a homicide, paid by the culprit to the
kinsmen of the deceased. Basically, a traditional Germanic/Slavic
legal practice where you could simply walk away with murder provided
that you could pay the reparations.

Tolkien, however, uses it differently in the paragraph that I quoted.
King Folcwine has sent his sons to fight for Gondor, in accordance to
the Oath of Eorl and the old alliance agreement between Rohan and
Gondor. Both sons are killed in action, and steward Túrin II sends a
"rich weregild of gold" as compensation to their father. It's
presented as a reward with which the sacrifice of the young men is
honoured.

I don't know if the Anglo-Saxons would have recognized the term
"weregild" when used in this kind of context.


Cheers,

J. J.
Soren Larsen
2007-11-18 11:12:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
Post by Peter Bruells
Isn't weregild = man + geld (i..e man-money), a kind of bloodmoney to
be paid as reparation?
Yes, it's a compensation for a homicide, paid by the culprit to the
kinsmen of the deceased. Basically, a traditional Germanic/Slavic
legal practice where you could simply walk away with murder provided
that you could pay the reparations.
Nitpick alert.



You could only get away with homicide if the extended family of the victim
accepted
the weregild. Otherwise the likely result would be a bloodfeud.

There was of course a pressure from society and the authorities (mostly the
king) for
the family of the victim to accept weregild and avoid the havoc of having
too
many ongoing feuds, but you couldn't count on walking away from a killing
just because you could pay reparations.

Hence the old Icelandic proverb: "Never kill in the same bloodline twice"

The family might just accept reparations the first time, but a second
killing
would almost certainly trigger a feud.

Picking an even smaller nit.

You could pay weregild as compensation for a slaying (homicide) but you
definitely couldn't walk away from _mord_ (murder) just by paying
reparations
and fines.

A homicide had to be done publicly or announced immidiately after the act,
to count as as a slaying that could be compensated by weregild.

If the killer tried to hide the fact that he had comitted the killing, it
would be
'Mord' and he would be outlawed on discovery, meaning that everyone except
his family had the right and obligation to kill him on sight.

So Mordor was likely named just that for a reason.

Cheers
Soren Larsen
--
History is not what it used to be.
Rich Rostrom
2007-11-15 20:15:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
Post by Rich Rostrom
Umm, "whig" != "wig".
Well, you know, English isn't my first language.
I venture you are more fluent in it then 95%
of native speakers, and have better grammar
and spelling.
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
Post by Rich Rostrom
IMHO the Rohirrim have money, it's just never mentioned.
Actually, you can find some references from between the lines, if you
read the appendixes closely. King Fengel's "lust for gold", for
example, and Túrin II sending a "rich weregild of gold" to King
Folcwine. So, even if they may not have coinage of their own, they
definitely use and recognize gold in transactions.
Ah, good points.
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
And the traditions of the High Elves, of course, but that's not really
"religion" or "beliefs", but instead an actual primary _knowledge_ of
really being a part of a bigger plan.
Yeah. That's got to be weird. Here's
the new Queen of Gondor, whose grandfather
is a planet. Galadriel, who was Feanor's
niece.
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
Post by Rich Rostrom
But OTOH they build no stone structures, except
the Hornburg - Meduseld is all of wood and turf.
Dunharg/Dunharrow is also a stone structure, although at the moment, I
don't remember if they inherited that part of real estate from Gondor.
The stair-path to the Door of the Dead is
decorated with ancient sculptures (the\
Pukel-men), so it is presumably
pre-Rohan; there are half-ruined standing
stones, also pre-Rohan.
--
| Decapitation is, in most instances, associated |
| with a decline in IQ. |
| |
| -- Professor Raymond Tallis |
sophia
2007-11-15 14:56:53 UTC
Permalink
Post by Rich Rostrom
And the class division is also visibly there and is a bit more
extensive than what you're suggesting, I'd say. Even though the
spotlight is mostly on the well-to-do Hobbits, there are references to
those who don't do quite as well.
Well, one can't have gentry without peasantry or tenantry.
Though Tolkien portrays no hobbits lower than freeholders.
(Except maybe Sam's family, who have a small plot but mainly
work as hired gardeners.)
They seem to be tennants, hence they can be evicted while Sam is away.
Post by Rich Rostrom
There is no difference of _kind_ between, say the Cotton
family and the Took family - the Tooks just have more land.
No, the Tooks are titled aristocracy, hereditary Thanes of the shire and
thus the nearest thing to a head of state that the Shire has and top of
the social tree. Being titled nobles is important in the kind of society
society Tolkein depicts for the Shire, whether it's pseudo 18th
century or pseudo Edwardian.

The Brandybucks are also titled nobles, they as a clan rule a marcher
area called Buckland, the title of their head is the Master of Buckland.
Merry is heir to that title, just as Pippin is heir to the Thain.
Post by Rich Rostrom
Merry refers to Farmer Cotton as "the chief person round here".
And Tolkien had a definitely post-medieval (and even
post-Victorian) attitude toward class distinctions.
The class system of mediaeval England was a lot more flexible than is
often supposed. From the latter part of the 13th century a peasant could
make it into the gentry in two generations, and from there it was just a
matter of the right marriages or doing well at court.
Post by Rich Rostrom
Sam, the humble son of Gaffer Hamfast rises to be Mayor.
Well, he had just saved the world :) but on the other hand, Cardinal
Wolsey was the son of a butcher.
Post by Rich Rostrom
The post-LoTR tables show that Sam's daughter Goldilocks
marries Peregrine's son Faramir, the future Thain of the
Shire.
Up and coming families marrying into the nobility is a long tradition
here in England.
Sophia
c***@gmail.com
2007-11-15 16:31:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by sophia
Post by Rich Rostrom
Sam, the humble son of Gaffer Hamfast rises to be Mayor.
Well, he had just saved the world :) but on the other hand, Cardinal
Wolsey was the son of a butcher.
I have sometimes wondered about that. When Wolsey pere is described
as a butcher, do they mean the equivalent of a modern-day worker in a
meatpacking plant or the guy in a blood-stained apron behind the
market counter? Or was he something like a more well-to-do owner-
manager of a large butcher shop (or set of shops), a dealer in meat
who might or might not have gotten his hands too dirty in the work
day? Probably the latter if he had enough money to get his son into a
cathedral grammar school in the first place before the bishop might
ever notice his promise.

Colin Alberts
quod scripsi scripsi
sophia
2007-11-15 19:01:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by c***@gmail.com
Post by sophia
Post by Rich Rostrom
Sam, the humble son of Gaffer Hamfast rises to be Mayor.
Well, he had just saved the world :) but on the other hand, Cardinal
Wolsey was the son of a butcher.
I have sometimes wondered about that. When Wolsey pere is described
as a butcher, do they mean the equivalent of a modern-day worker in a
meatpacking plant or the guy in a blood-stained apron behind the
market counter? Or was he something like a more well-to-do owner-
manager of a large butcher shop (or set of shops), a dealer in meat
who might or might not have gotten his hands too dirty in the work
day?
Most likely the owner of a prosperous butcher's shop or shops. However,
to achieve the status of master butcher which would allow him to own
such a business he would have had to have served an apprenticeship to
learn the trade and be allowed into the guild. To do that he would have
got his hands very dirty indeed.

Probably the latter if he had enough money to get his son into a
Post by c***@gmail.com
cathedral grammar school
Not a cathedral school but the local grammar school in Ipswich then
Magdalen College School, an establishment that prepared kids for the
choir of Magdalen College, Oxford. That got him in to Magdalen itself
where he became a rising young theologian and attracted attention from
the talent spotters.

Affording the local grammar school would have been well with in the
means of a prosperous tradesman of the time, for the rest scholarships
and patronage. Wolsey was smart and it showed from an early age.
Educating promising kids was a common practice for well off tradesman at
this time as it was an excellent business decision and could lead to
social advancement through the church the law (including canon law) or
the royal service.

It's notable that Wolsey's successor as chief minister, Thomas Cromwell,
also came from similar origins, his dad was either a cloth worker, a
publican or a smith, depending on who you read, at any rate a successful
businessman of some sort.


Sophia
Rich Rostrom
2007-11-15 19:24:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by sophia
Post by Rich Rostrom
And the class division is also visibly there and is a bit more
extensive than what you're suggesting, I'd say. Even though the
spotlight is mostly on the well-to-do Hobbits, there are references to
those who don't do quite as well.
Well, one can't have gentry without peasantry or tenantry.
Though Tolkien portrays no hobbits lower than freeholders.
(Except maybe Sam's family, who have a small plot but mainly
work as hired gardeners.)
They seem to be tennants, hence they can be evicted while Sam is away.
Good point.
Post by sophia
Post by Rich Rostrom
There is no difference of _kind_ between, say the Cotton
family and the Took family - the Tooks just have more land.
No, the Tooks are titled aristocracy, hereditary Thanes of the shire and
thus the nearest thing to a head of state that the Shire has and top of
the social tree.
Except there's no evidence that the Thainship
is anything but an honorary title. The Thain
could offer no opposition to the usurpation
of Chief Shirriff Lotho except protests and
vigilante resistance.
Post by sophia
The Brandybucks are also titled nobles, they as a clan rule a marcher
area called Buckland, the title of their head is the Master of Buckland.
Merry is heir to that title, just as Pippin is heir to the Thain.
"Master of Buckland" simply means the
head of the Brandybuck family, and
presumably owner of Brandy Hall.

Again, no hint of special powers.
Post by sophia
Post by Rich Rostrom
Merry refers to Farmer Cotton as "the chief person round here".
Note that Merry doesn't look for a Baggins,
or other "gentry" to lead the rebellion in
Bywater.
Post by sophia
Post by Rich Rostrom
And Tolkien had a definitely post-medieval (and even
post-Victorian) attitude toward class distinctions.
The class system of mediaeval England was a lot more flexible than is
often supposed. From the latter part of the 13th century a peasant could
make it into the gentry in two generations, and from there it was just a
matter of the right marriages or doing well at court.
True enough - the Victorians seem to have been more
class-conscious in many ways.
Post by sophia
Post by Rich Rostrom
Sam, the humble son of Gaffer Hamfast rises to be Mayor.
Well, he had just saved the world :) but on the other hand, Cardinal
Wolsey was the son of a butcher.
The priesthood, like many professions, was often
path between classes.
--
| Decapitation is, in most instances, associated |
| with a decline in IQ. |
| |
| -- Professor Raymond Tallis |
Old Toby
2007-11-16 10:18:40 UTC
Permalink
Post by sophia
No, the Tooks are titled aristocracy, hereditary Thanes of the shire and
thus the nearest thing to a head of state that the Shire has and top of
the social tree. Being titled nobles is important in the kind of society
society Tolkein depicts for the Shire, whether it's pseudo 18th
century or pseudo Edwardian.
Don't confuse the copy for the model. Just because The Shire is based
on a place with an important aristocracy doesn't make it have one.

The Thanes are the _only_ proper nobles in the Shire, and their
title has become an irrelevant anachronism by the time of TLOTR.
The Masters of Buckland are so called because they own the place
(which isn't even in the Shire, to be technical), but don't have
a real title until (IIRC) Aragorn bestows one on Merry in the
appendices.

If we read closely, we find that the Shire seems to have a landowning
gentry and tenants as well as yeoman farmers, but (other than Sam's
subservience) little is made of the distinction. The books themselves
tend to elide such matters and present everything as functionally
egalitarian (again, except for Sam). One might also note that
Bag End seems to employ no servants except a part-time gardener.


Old Toby
Least Known Dog on the Net
Rich Rostrom
2007-11-14 19:11:09 UTC
Permalink
they grow New World crops such as potatoes, cotton and tobacco.
Cotton is not New World. American strains are the
most commonly grown today, even in the Old World,
but cotton was grown and woven in India BCE.

BTW - Tolkien had a friend and comrade during WW I,
who was from an area where the folk had names like
Baggins and Proudfoot, grew tobacco, and often went
barefoot.

It was _Kentucky_.
--
| He had a shorter, more scraggly, and even less |
| flattering beard than Yassir Arafat, and Escalante |
| never conceived that such a thing was possible. |
| -- William Goldman, _Heat_ |
j***@faf.mil.fi
2007-11-15 09:36:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by Rich Rostrom
Cotton is not New World. American strains are the
most commonly grown today, even in the Old World,
but cotton was grown and woven in India BCE.
Of course, an elementary mistake. Thanks for the correction.

The Hobbits also drink tea and coffee. Hm.


Cheers,

J. J.
Rich Rostrom
2007-11-15 19:34:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
Post by Rich Rostrom
Cotton is not New World. American strains are the
most commonly grown today, even in the Old World,
but cotton was grown and woven in India BCE.
Of course, an elementary mistake. Thanks for the correction.
The Hobbits also drink tea and coffee. Hm.
So do the dwarves - the coffee, which I had
overlooked, is called for by the dwarves
during Bilbo's surprise party. (It was a
surprise to him, certainly.)

Of course, one could make a whole career
of noting and wondering about "anachronisms"
and anomalies in LoTR, and how they worked
out.

For instance, hobbits discovered "pipeweed",
and the dwarves adopted it, as did Gandalf,
and the Men of Bree, and the Rangers.

(But not the Elves...)

Did smoking become a new fashion in Gondor
at the court of King Elessar? One can just
imagine the wealth pouring into the Shire
from tobacco exports!

Did Gandalf have to give up smoking when
he passed over the Sea?
--
| Decapitation is, in most instances, associated |
| with a decline in IQ. |
| |
| -- Professor Raymond Tallis |
Alexey Romanov
2007-11-17 00:11:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by Rich Rostrom
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
Post by Rich Rostrom
Cotton is not New World. American strains are the
most commonly grown today, even in the Old World,
but cotton was grown and woven in India BCE.
Of course, an elementary mistake. Thanks for the correction.
The Hobbits also drink tea and coffee. Hm.
So do the dwarves - the coffee, which I had
overlooked, is called for by the dwarves
during Bilbo's surprise party. (It was a
surprise to him, certainly.)
Of course, one could make a whole career
of noting and wondering about "anachronisms"
and anomalies in LoTR, and how they worked
out.
For instance, hobbits discovered "pipeweed",
and the dwarves adopted it, as did Gandalf,
and the Men of Bree, and the Rangers.
(But not the Elves...)
Did smoking become a new fashion in Gondor
at the court of King Elessar? One can just
imagine the wealth pouring into the Shire
from tobacco exports!
Did Gandalf have to give up smoking when
he passed over the Sea?
Likely not, since the tobacco came to Eriador from Numenor, and to Numenor
from Valinor. On the other hand, Valinorean tobacco is wild, possibly not
as good as cultured tobacco. On the third hand, it's Valinorean, growing
close to Yavanna likely makes all useful plants better.
--
Alexey Romanov

"This is a crime so sneaky and so subtle, even I don't know if I
am actually committing it!"

Freefall <http://freefall.purrsia.com/ff800/fv00739.htm>
Rich Rostrom
2007-11-17 08:23:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alexey Romanov
Post by Rich Rostrom
So do the dwarves - the coffee, which I had
overlooked, is called for by the dwarves
during Bilbo's surprise party. (It was a
surprise to him, certainly.)
Of course, one could make a whole career
of noting and wondering about "anachronisms"
and anomalies in LoTR, and how they worked
out.
One of which I just noticed. The dwarves call
for coffee in Bilbo's home. If hobbits drink
coffee, where do they get it?

It wouldn't grow in Middle-Earth anywhere north
of Harad, I'd think. Even tea is not plausible.
Post by Alexey Romanov
Post by Rich Rostrom
For instance, hobbits discovered "pipeweed",
and the dwarves adopted it, as did Gandalf,
and the Men of Bree, and the Rangers.
(But not the Elves...)
Did smoking become a new fashion in Gondor
at the court of King Elessar? One can just
imagine the wealth pouring into the Shire
from tobacco exports!
Did Gandalf have to give up smoking when
he passed over the Sea?
Likely not, since the tobacco came to Eriador from Numenor, and to Numenor
from Valinor.
Is that in _Unfinished Tales_ or somesuch?

If there was smoking in Valinor, then why
not among the Elves?
--
| Decapitation is, in most instances, associated |
| with a decline in IQ. |
| |
| -- Professor Raymond Tallis |
j***@faf.mil.fi
2007-11-17 09:38:12 UTC
Permalink
One of which I just noticed. The dwarves call for
coffee in Bilbo's home. If hobbits drink coffee, where
do they get it?
Well, I just noticed another anachronistic anomaly par excellence.
Namely, the Hobbits have _paper_. Apparently, in quantities which
suggests some serious production in manufactories.

Not only do they have books and letter paper, but Bilbo actually has a
"large waste-paper basket", which he leaves to Dora Baggins "in memory
of a LONG correspondence". A society which not only has paper, but can
afford to throw it to waste after using it? Remarkable.

So, who's making paper in the Middle-Earth? Do the Dwarves have a
secret pulp mill somewhere in Ered Luin? And what do they use as a raw
material? Hemp?
It wouldn't grow in Middle-Earth anywhere north
of Harad, I'd think. Even tea is not plausible.
Coffee could plausibly come from the port of Umbar, except that
there's definitely no trade with the Corsairs, so there's an anomaly
right there. But, come to think of it, "tea" might be a reference to
some sort of herbal tea.
Post by Alexey Romanov
Post by Rich Rostrom
Did Gandalf have to give up smoking when
he passed over the Sea?
Likely not, since the tobacco came to Eriador from Numenor, and to Numenor
from Valinor.
Is that in _Unfinished Tales_ or somesuch?
The Silmarillion states that Valinor had everything. Yavanna's
gardens, after all.
If there was smoking in Valinor, then why
not among the Elves?
As the introduction states, they just didn't figure it out. The
Hobbits were the first people who came up with the thought "let's
smoke this shit". So, Gandalf picked up the habit in the Middle-Earth
and would have been able to continue it after his return to Valinor.


Cheers,

J. J.
Rich Rostrom
2007-11-17 19:21:20 UTC
Permalink
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
One of which I just noticed. The dwarves call for
coffee in Bilbo's home. If hobbits drink coffee, where
do they get it?
Well, I just noticed another anachronistic anomaly par excellence.
Namely, the Hobbits have _paper_. Apparently, in quantities which
suggests some serious production in manufactories.
Not only do they have books and letter paper, but Bilbo actually has a
"large waste-paper basket", which he leaves to Dora Baggins "in memory
of a LONG correspondence". A society which not only has paper, but can
afford to throw it to waste after using it? Remarkable.
Not all that paperbound:

the Hobbiton post-office was blocked, and
the Bywater post-office was snowed under...

by the invitations to the Party and replies. There
were 144 family guests, and a much larger number of
general guests: 600 in all, perhaps? It seems a
pretty feeble postal system that is swamped by a
burst of 1,200 items.
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
So, who's making paper in the Middle-Earth? Do the Dwarves have a
secret pulp mill somewhere in Ered Luin? And what do they use as a raw
material? Hemp?
Paper would be no great innovation, presumably
the hobbits could have a paper mill or three
somewhere in the North Farthing.
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
It wouldn't grow in Middle-Earth anywhere north
of Harad, I'd think. Even tea is not plausible.
Coffee could plausibly come from the port of Umbar, except that
there's definitely no trade with the Corsairs, so there's an anomaly
right there. But, come to think of it, "tea" might be a reference to
some sort of herbal tea.
Herbal tea is good.
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
Post by Alexey Romanov
Post by Rich Rostrom
Did Gandalf have to give up smoking when
he passed over the Sea?
Likely not, since the tobacco came to Eriador from Numenor, and to Numenor
from Valinor.
Is that in _Unfinished Tales_ or somesuch?
The Silmarillion states that Valinor had everything. Yavanna's
gardens, after all.
If there was smoking in Valinor, then why
not among the Elves?
As the introduction states, they just didn't figure it out. The
Hobbits were the first people who came up with the thought "let's
smoke this shit". So, Gandalf picked up the habit in the Middle-Earth
and would have been able to continue it after his return to Valinor.
I can just see Gandalf trying to explain
smoking to the other Maiar:

"No, really, this is _good_. Here, Bilbo,
tell them..."

They'd probably be relieved when Gimli showed
up and there was at least one other smoker
around. (AFAIR, neither Sam nor Frodo smoked.)
--
| Decapitation is, in most instances, associated |
| with a decline in IQ. |
| |
| -- Professor Raymond Tallis |
Alexey Romanov
2007-11-17 22:59:05 UTC
Permalink
Post by Rich Rostrom
They'd probably be relieved when Gimli showed
up and there was at least one other smoker
around. (AFAIR, neither Sam nor Frodo smoked.)
Well, Sam has had a few decades to pick up the habit.
--
Alexey Romanov

"My species were swimming the seas when you Earth types were
still sitting around in stone huts scribbling calculus equations
with graphite sticks."

Freefall <http://freefall.purrsia.com/ff1300/fv01224.htm>
Alexey Romanov
2007-11-17 22:57:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
Post by Rich Rostrom
Is that in _Unfinished Tales_ or somesuch?
The Silmarillion states that Valinor had everything. Yavanna's
gardens, after all.
The Lord of the Rings, page 21:
"All the same, observations that I have made on my own many journeys south
have convinced me that the weed itself is not native to our part of the
world but came northward from the lower Anduin, whither it was, I suspect,
originally brought over the Sea by the Men of Westernesse."
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
Post by Rich Rostrom
If there was smoking in Valinor, then why
not among the Elves?
As the introduction states, they just didn't figure it out. The
Hobbits were the first people who came up with the thought "let's
smoke this shit". So, Gandalf picked up the habit in the Middle-Earth
and would have been able to continue it after his return to Valinor.
Right.
--
Alexey Romanov

"This is a crime so sneaky and so subtle, even I don't know if I
am actually committing it!"

Freefall <http://freefall.purrsia.com/ff800/fv00739.htm>
s***@yahoo.com
2007-11-17 20:29:18 UTC
Permalink
Post by Rich Rostrom
Of course, one could make a whole career
of noting and wondering about "anachronisms"
and anomalies in LoTR, and how they worked
out.
I'm sure someone, somewhere, has made a list.

My personal favorite: in _The Hobbit_, the dwarves show up on Bilbo's
doorstep unexpectedly. Then, late in the evening, they all pull out
musical instruments "from somewhere" and start making music.

The dwarves and Bilbo depart the next day on a journey of a couple of
thousand miles across deep and dangerous wilderness. The musical
instruments are never, ever mentioned again.

(Yeah, there's half a dozen plausible retcons for this one, from "they
were small instruments, you know, harmonicas like" to "they rented
them down the road". But come on... you just know Tolkien forgot
about the dwarves' instruments.)


Doug M.
Old Toby
2007-11-16 10:19:41 UTC
Permalink
Post by j***@faf.mil.fi
Post by Rich Rostrom
Cotton is not New World. American strains are the
most commonly grown today, even in the Old World,
but cotton was grown and woven in India BCE.
Of course, an elementary mistake. Thanks for the correction.
The Hobbits also drink tea and coffee. Hm.
Gondar is a big coffee producing region, IIRC ;-)

Old Toby
Least Known Dog on the Net
Robert J. Kolker
2007-11-13 13:06:18 UTC
Permalink
Post by n***@hotmail.com
Not so much. It was influenced more by the creeping urbanisation of
the countryside that was already taking place in the 1930s.
Cheers,
Nigel.
That is what JRR's son Christopher said.

Bob Kolker
Rich Rostrom
2007-11-14 01:32:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by n***@hotmail.com
Post by Rich Rostrom
One question I would ask is how much
the final part (The Scouring of the
Shire) was influenced by events in
postwar Britain. No WW II - no Labor
government, no rationing...
Not so much. It was influenced more by the creeping urbanisation of
the countryside that was already taking place in the 1930s.
And yet the invaders of the Shire are
described as "gathering and sharing",
and imposing a lot of unnecessary rules.

What's that got to do with urbanization?

It looks a lot more like a hostile portrait
the Labor Party's post war regime.

Oh, and they all talk like British working
class louts.
--
| He had a shorter, more scraggly, and even less |
| flattering beard than Yassir Arafat, and Escalante |
| never conceived that such a thing was possible. |
| -- William Goldman, _Heat_ |
n***@hotmail.com
2007-11-14 11:47:09 UTC
Permalink
Post by Rich Rostrom
Post by n***@hotmail.com
Post by Rich Rostrom
One question I would ask is how much
the final part (The Scouring of the
Shire) was influenced by events in
postwar Britain. No WW II - no Labor
government, no rationing...
Not so much. It was influenced more by the creeping urbanisation of
the countryside that was already taking place in the 1930s.
And yet the invaders of the Shire are
described as "gathering and sharing",
and imposing a lot of unnecessary rules.
What's that got to do with urbanization?
The regimentation of urban/industrial lifestyles compared with the
perceived freedom of old-fashioned country living ? (perceived as in
that is what Tolkien believed it to be)
Post by Rich Rostrom
It looks a lot more like a hostile portrait
the Labor Party's post war regime.
Labour's post-war government was focussed more on the city than the
countryside - nationalisation of industry, for example, not of
agriculture. Rationing also had less affect on the countryside than
on the cities, as there was still a lot of bartering of goods
(especially food) in the villiages.
Post by Rich Rostrom
Oh, and they all talk like British working
class louts.
British working class *city* louts - in other words the architype of
townies moving to the countryside and telling the country folks how
things should be run.

Cheers,
Nigel.
m***@willamette.edu
2007-11-14 17:10:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by n***@hotmail.com
Labour's post-war government was focussed more on the city than the
countryside - nationalisation of industry, for example, not of
agriculture.
Yea, but like many people who idealize the countryside, Tolkien wasn't
a farmer himself. He'd have been reading about the policies of the
Labour government and experiencing whatever rationing was typical to
an Oxford prof living in Merton College from 1945 to 1959.

--
Mike Ralls
k***@cix.compulink.co.uk
2007-11-14 15:58:03 UTC
Permalink
In article
Post by Rich Rostrom
It looks a lot more like a hostile portrait
the Labor Party's post war regime.
Or Soviet Communism. This was the period Animal Farm and 1984 came out.
A lot of disillusion with the "Socialist Revolution". Besides most of
the rules dated from the war years anyway. About the only thing you can
really blame Labour for are "Export or Die" and the continuation of
rationing with worse conditions. Neither of these are likely to have
affected Tolkien that much.

Ken Young
Hartley Patterson
2007-11-16 13:28:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by m***@willamette.edu
Tolkien swore up and down that Lord of the Rings was not an allegory
for WWII but let's try a WI experiment about that.
His oft claimed dislike of allegory was originally a dig at his friend C S
Lewis' Narnia stories, which are in parts an overt allegory of
Christianity. His refutation of suggestions that parts of LotR are related
to contemporary RL events was I suspect part of that debate!
--
Hartley Patterson
http://www.newsfrombree.co.uk
http://news-from-bree.blogspot.com
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