Professor J. R. R. Tolkien

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Unread postby Kong Wen » Mon Mar 22, 2004 8:36 am

Also of interest is The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. This nice collection contains a ton of letters by JRRT dealing with his works as well as with other interesting things like linguistics, his academic interests, publishing fiascos, and his personal life.
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Unread postby Justin » Fri Apr 02, 2004 4:54 pm

I've read the hobbit and LoTR trilogy several times over each. They are by far my favorite books. I'm working on the silmarillion right now but it's a hard read. It's style of writing takes a while to get used too.
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Unread postby Bryan » Tue Apr 13, 2004 7:46 pm

Hmm, thought I'd get this thread going again, or at least make an attempt, by adding some tidbits. :)

Names of characters (mostly Dwarves): Most of the names of Tolkien's dwarves come directly from the text of Iceland's twelfth-century Prose Edda (which gives an account of their creation, then lists their names.) All the dwarves in The Hobbit: Thorin, Dwalin, Balin, Kili, Fili, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, and Gloin, appear on this list, as well as Thrain, Thror, Dain, and Nain. The Edda also gives the name Durin to the mysterious creator of the dwarfs*, which is also the name Tolkien uses for his first dwarf king of "Durin's Line." Heh, surpisingly, another of the Icelandic dwarfs is called Gandalf, whose literal meaning is "sorcerer elf". Now, on the subject of the name of Gimli; Gimli (or Gimle, which is more common, apparently) is the name of a hall in both of the Eddas which, after Ragnarok, is supposed to be the best place of all; a building fairer than the sun, roofed with gold, in a third heaven, Vidblain, that is above Andlang, which is a heaven that exists south of and above Asgard. In the hall of Gimli/Gimle, the gods will live at peace with themselves and each other. Now, in the Volsupa, Gimli/Gimle is the place on the shining plain where the remaining gods will return to reign after Ragnarok.

* - In English, the only correct plural of dwarf is dwarfs, and the adjective is dwarfish. Tolkien uses the forms dwarves and dwarvish in his stories, but only when speaking of the ancient poeple to whom Thorin Oakenshield and his companions belonged to. I believe that the reason for this use is given in The Lord of the Rings, and if I can find it, I'll post that as well.

Thought that I would get this out of my mind, as I've mulled on it for a very, very long time :D .
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Unread postby Lady Wu » Tue Apr 13, 2004 10:04 pm

Thanks, Bryan! The stuff on Dwarf names is very interesting.

BTW, the reason for the use of "dwarvish" and "dwarves" is given on page 415 of Volume III of the 3 volume paperback edition, and p.1171 in the one-volume hardcover. Basically, Tolkien wanted to reinforce the idea that Thorin et al are not the kind of silly dwarfs we see in children's books today. :)
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Unread postby Cao Ren » Wed Apr 14, 2004 2:46 am

I like some others enjoyed the Simarillion the most of all of Tolkein's writings. I liked the style of writing and loved the strife between the Noldor and the other elves. I enjoyed the tales of Turin and Beren and the fate of the house of Feanor and thought it worked out very nice.
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Unread postby Bryan » Thu Apr 15, 2004 1:33 am

Glad to be of service, m'lady! :)
Now, for some more tidbits; the first little piece shall be about a character, and the following bit shall be on the man himself.

The name Eärendel (which was later changed into Eärendil) comes from a poem that Tolkien first came across in his Old English Studies. In the Crist of Cynewulf, there is a couplet:
Eálá Earendel engla beorhtast
Ofer middangeard monnum sended
Hail Earendel brightest of angels, over Middle Earth sent to men. ("middangeard" was an ancient expression for the everyday world between Heaven above and Hell below.)

The name "Tolkien" (pronounced: Tol-keen; equal stress on both syllables) is believed to be of German origin; Tol-kühn: foolishly brave, or stupidly clever - thus, "Oxymore", the pseudonym which he occasiuonally used.

John Ronald ("Ronald" to family and early friends) was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on January 3, 1892. While in Africa, he had an encounter with a large hairy spider; the vividly terrifying memory influenced some of his later writing (the large spiders of Mirkwood; Ungoliant).

During WW I Tolkien served in the army and saw action in the Somme offensive. After four months in and out of the trenches, he succumbed to "trench fever" (a form of typhus-like infection common in the insanitary conditions) and was sent to a hospital in Birmingham, England for the next month, and had recovered enough to return to stay with his wife Edith (Bratt) at Great Haywood in Staffordshire by Christmas. During this time, all but one of his close friends of the "T.C.B.S." (Tea Club, Barrovian Society, named after their meeting place at the Barrow Store in King's Health, formed during his later years at school) had been killed in action, and Tolkien responded in his own way by beginning to order his imagination into what would later become the Book of Lost Tales.

Tolkien thought of himself as "Beren" and Edith as "Lúthien" after Edith danced for him in 1917 in the woods near Roos.

With C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams and other friends, Tolkien formed an informal literary group called The Inklings, which took shape in the 1930s. They all had an interest in storytelling and their Tuesday lunchtime sessions in the Bird and Baby pub became well known part of Oxford social life. At their meetings the Inklings read aloud drafts of fiction and other work. Williams died in 1945 and the meetings faded out in 1949. - Other members of the club included Christopher Tolkien, JRRT's son, and Owen Barfield.

Most of these tidbits come from these biographies:

http://www.tolkiensociety.org/tolkien/biography.html

http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/tolkien.htm
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Unread postby Exar Kun » Thu Apr 15, 2004 3:32 am

Wow,good stuff mate.

I liked Sil best of all that I've read.Comparing these guys to LotR you really realize how much the races have deteriorated.
Aragorn is great and all but what is he when compared to Hurin?
How can Gil-galad compare to Fingolfin.

One person I find is very overlooked due to his parentage is Maedhros.He's one of my favourites,probably the best strategist of the entire house of Finwe.If they only would have united under him I think they'd have had a much better chance than they did under Fingolfin and his heirs.

Anytime I think Pelennor fields after reading the book:
War of Wrath>>>Dagor Bragollach>>>Fall of Gondolin>>>Pelennor Fields.
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Unread postby Bryan » Thu Apr 15, 2004 6:11 pm

Back again!

'Shadowfax' means 'silver-grey' and closely resembles Grani, 'the Grey' steed of Sigurd (from the Volsunga saga). Grani, who understood human speech, was the silver-grey offspring of Slaipnir, the supernatural eight-legged steed of Odin. Shadowfax, who also understands the language of Men, is one of the Mearas, a race of horses descended from the god Orome the Hunter's supernatural horse, Nahar.

Tolkien himself often pointed out how many readers saw the connection between Aragorn and King Arthur, but he found that they usually missed the connection between Aragorn and Charlemagne. Aragorn's task of forging the Reunited Kingdom of Arnor and Gondor from the ruins of the ancient Dunedain empire after more than a millennium of barbarian chaos was historically parallel tp Charlemagne's task of creating the Holy Roman Empire from the ruins of the ancient Roman empire.

Heh, can't even remember where I dug this one up, but it's here in my notes! : The action of The Lord of the Rings takes place in the north-west of a Middle-earth in a region roughly equivalent to the European land mass. Hobbiton and Rivendale, as Tolkien often acknowledged, were roughly intended to be on the same latitude of Oxford. By his own estimates, this put Gondor and Minas Tirith some six hundred miles to the south in a location that might be equivalent to Florence.

In a letter written in 1967, Tolkien suggested that rather than seeing the LotR as being inspired by Arthurian or Norse s, : 'the progress of the tale ends in what is far more like the re-establishment of an effective Holy Roman Empire with its seat in Rome.' In the LotR, we learn that the once United Numenorean Kingdom is split into the two weakened and deteriorating realms of the north and south, Arnor and Gondor. This is comparable to the historical Roman Empire which was split into two weakened and deteriorating realms of the east and the west, Rome and Byzantium. It is certain that Tolkien considered such a parallel himself, writing that he saw Gondor at the time of the War of the Ring as 'a kind of proud, venerable, but increasingly impotent Byzantium.'

Further comparisons between Aragorn and Charlemagne: both carry magical ancestral swords, both have the power to cure with magical herbs, both have wise old mentors, and both marry Elf Queens. About the swords: Anduril, originally Narsil, was forged by Telchar the Smith. Joyeuse (Charlemagne's magical pagan sword) was forged by Wayland the Smith. It is interesting to me how the Christian destroyer of the pagan religions (most notably the worshippers of Odin/Wotan) should be armed with a sword that was forged by the same smith who made Gram, the weapon of that supreme warrior of Odin, Sigurd. On the power to heal with magical herbs: Aragorn uses the herb 'athelas' to cure those who are fatally struck down by the 'Black Breath' of the Nozgul. In the Carolingian legends, Charlemagne was reputed to have been able to cure those struck by the 'Black Death' by using the herb called 'sowthistle'. In both cases, these herbs only worked their magical cures if administered by the healing hands of kings - as is confirmed in the folklore of Middle-earth where the common name for 'athelas' is 'kingsfoil'. On the Elf Queens: Aragorn's betrothal to the Elf princess Arwen is comparable to Charlemagne's engagement to the exotic oriental Elf princess Frastrada. Of course, both Frastrada and Arwen are considered to be the most beautiful women in the world. (Some may argue that Galadriel has Arwen beat in this respect, but I would disagree, as her beauty is enhanced by the Adamant Ring, whereas Arwen's beauty is natural (or as natural as an elf's surreal beauty can be :) )).
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Unread postby Bryan » Fri Apr 16, 2004 12:27 am

Found a great site that is dedicated to Tolkien's works:
http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/
Try it! You won't regret it! :D
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Unread postby Bryan » Sun Apr 25, 2004 7:41 pm

Tolkien, as a professor of Anglo-Saxon, was an authority on Beowulf, and has acknowledged that 'Beowulf is among my most valued sources' for his Hobbit tale. The two tales aren't very similar; there are parallels in the plot structure of the dragon episode of Beowulf and that of the fall of Smaug in The Hobbit. Beowulf's dragon is awakened by a thief who finds his way into the dragon's cavern and steals from the dragon's hoard a jewelled cup. This theft is mirrored by Bilbo Baggins theft of a jewelled cup from Smaug's hoard. Both thieves escape detection (Bilbo not totally; thanks to the Ring, he does escape) and being the focal point of the wrath of the dragons. In both tales, the nearby human settlements suffer from the dragons' rage. Both Beowulf and Bard are left to slay the dragons, although while Bard survives to become King of Dale, Beowulf (who was already a king at the time) does not survive his encounter with the dragon.
Tolkien also employs elements of Beowulf in The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit Frodo (which we are told that in original Hobbitish (didn't know what word to use there) is actually Froda) is named after Froda, lord of the Bards in Beowulf.

During the time in which Tolkien was writing The Lord of the Rings, he went on a holiday outing with his family to White Horse Hill, which is less than 20 miles from Oxford on the borders of Mercia and Wessex. This is the site of the famous image of the White Horse cut in chalk on the green hill which gave Tolkien the image for the banner of the Riders of the Mark: 'a white horse on a green field'.

'Ent' is Old English for 'giant', 'Orc' is 'demon' or 'goblin', 'Meara' is 'horse', and 'Hobbit' is invented from 'Holbytla' or 'hole builder'. 'Woses' is from 'wodwos', a sylvan goblin.

All the Northmen and Rohirrim names (such as 'Éowyn' - 'horsewoman', and 'Théoden' - 'chief of a nation') are in Old English - as the names of Dwarves are Icelandic, and those of the Elves are rotted in Welsh.

Tolkien's Valarian god, Oromë the Huntsman, was called Araw in the Sindarin language of the Elves. Almost identical in both name and character is the Welsh god Arawn the Huntsman. Both have an immortal giant horse and a pack of supernatural hounds.

Tolkien has largely aligned the traditions of the older Celtic peoples with his Elves; while the invading race of Anglo-Saxons have the characteristics of his Men. Tolkien's Elves are largely based on the traditions and conventions of the Celtic myths and legends of Ireland and Wales. However, it is important to understand that before Tolkien, the 'Elf' was a vaguely defined concept associated most often with pixiees, flower-fairies, gnomes, dwarfs and goblins of a diminutive and inconsequential nature. Tolkien's 'Elves' are a powerful and full-blooded people who closely resemble the pre-human Irish race of immortals, the Tuatha Dé Danann. Similarly to the Tuatha Dé Danann, Tolkien's Elves are taller and stronger than mortals, are incapable of suffering sickness, possess more than human beauty, and are filled with greater wisdom in all things (well, almost all!). They also possess talismans, jewels and weapons that humans might consider magical in their powers. They ride supernatural horses and understand the languages of animals. They love song, poetry and music - all of which they compose and perform perfectly. The Tuatha Dé Danann gradually withdrew from Ireland as mortal men migrated there from the east. With hhis ever-present theme of the dwindling of Elvish power on Middle-earth, Tolkien was following the tradition of Celtic myth. The Elves' westward treks to immortal realms across the sea, while the human race remained behind and ursurped a deminished mortal world trapped in time, were very much the theme of the diminishing of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The remnants of this once mighty race were the 'Aes Sídhe' (which means the 'people of the hills', for it was believed that these people withdrew from the mortal realm and hid inside the'hollow hills') or just the 'Sídhe' (pronounced 'Shee'). In Tolkien, just as in Celtic legends, we have remnant populations of these immortals in all manners of hiding paces: enchanted woods (Lothlórien), hidden valleys (Rivendell), in caves (Menegroth), in river gorges (Nargothrond), and on distant islands (Tol Eressëa). Also, both Tolkien's Elves and the Sídhe are immortal in the same sense that their lifespan is unlimited, but they can be killed. Tikjuen follows the Celtic tradition that suggests that immortals cannot survive in a mortal world; that they can remain only at the cost of their powers diminishing. Ultimately, there is a choice between remaining in the mortal world and leaving it forever for another immortal timeless world beyond the reach of human understanding.

Charlemagne's royal paladin, Roland, and arguably the most famous of Charlemagne's paladins, is probably best known for his famous last stand in the Roncevalles Pass in the Pyrenees against the Saracens (is there a more proper term to use than Saracen?). Ambushed and vastly outnumbered, Roland fights valiantly until his sword breaks. He is eventually overwhelmed and overrun by his enormous horde of enemies, and as he dies, Roland blows his horn to worn Charlemagne of the attack. This event is comparable to the last stand of Boromir in his fight with the Orcs on Amon Hen above the Falls of Rauros. Ambushed by Orcs below the 'Hill of the Eye' (the literal meaning of 'Amon Hen') by the western shores of Nen Hithoel, Boromir, like Roland, blows his horn, but, unlike Roland, Boromir is not dying as he does so. Although he slaughters a score of Orcs in defence of the Hobbits, he is overwhelmed, and his sword is broken and his horn smashed. Aragorn, like Charlemagne, rushes to the sound of the horn but, again, like Charlemagne, he reaches his friend too late.
Last edited by Bryan on Fri May 11, 2007 12:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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