Realism in Middle-earth

Adventure in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Learn more at our website: http://www.cubicle7.co.uk/our-games/the-one-ring/
Glorelendil
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Re: Realism in Middle-earth

Post by Glorelendil » Mon Jan 08, 2018 5:52 pm

Stormcrow wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:50 pm
Glorelendil wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 3:03 pm
In other words, I don't think it's very interesting to say, "Tolkien answered this so there's nothing to discuss, unless it's quoting/interpreting/explaining exactly what he said."

(The other answer is that, based on history, it's possible I sometimes read intent into Stormcrow's posts that isn't actually there.)
I think you're doing that here, because I didn't say Tolkien has the absolute answer. I said "How better to answer your questions than by hearing Tolkien's own answer?" I still say that. When the author upon whose work is based everything you do wrote what is probably his most influential essay about the very question you ask, it behooves you to pay attention.
Yes, I agree, and I apologize for the snark. I mistakenly interpreted it as "he has already answered this question" not "he may shed light on the question".
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Wbweather
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Re: Realism in Middle-earth

Post by Wbweather » Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:28 pm

I'm rereading the LOTR currently and having just finished the Simarillion and parts of Unfinished Tales, I have noticed how out of place the Shire is in Middle-earth. It doesn't "fit" if you try to look at it from a standpoint of it being logically consistent with the rest of ME. Yet, at the same time, the Shire and its residents are the essence of middle earth.

The Shire is the stepping off point for the world of fantasy. The Shire is more than a place in ME, it is really the modern world that doesn't believe in all the old wives tales of magic and monsters. I cannot say for certain, but I think the Shire would not feel all that different from the rural English countryside of the late 19th century. It needs to contain mantle clocks and postal services, because the reader needs to feel at home there. It is probably while both the Hobbit and LOTR start there. It's a place that we can relate to, but go outside of the familiar and you never know what adventures await. I don't think that Lord of the rings would feel the same or have the same broad appeal if it started in Minas Tirith or Erebor. Those are places the road leads you, but you start comfortably at home.

One other observation I made which seems to fit in this thread nicely was how the incident between Bill Ferny and Sam was described. Sam chucks an apple at Ferny:
“Sam turned quickly. ‘And you, Ferny,’ he said, ‘put your ugly face out of sight, or it will get hurt.’ With a sudden flick, quick as lightning, an apple left his hand and hit Bill square on the nose. He ducked too late, and curses came from behind the hedge. ‘Waste of a good apple,’ said Sam regretfully, and strode on.”
One can only imagine what string of vulgarity was represented by the curses from behind the hedge. Obviously there was some form of foul language in the common tongue, but Tolkien doesn't go into detail as to what the curses were (where other modern authors might).

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Re: Realism in Middle-earth

Post by Stormcrow » Mon Jan 08, 2018 7:32 pm

Wbweather wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:28 pm
I cannot say for certain, but I think the Shire would not feel all that different from the rural English countryside of the late 19th century.
I'll say that for certain, because Tolkien himself said it. "[The Shire] is in fact more or less a Warwickshire village of about the period of the Diamond Jubilee [1897]..."
It needs to contain mantle clocks and postal services, because the reader needs to feel at home there.
This is the key. It feels right. It's not about realism or immersion; it's about evoking the right mood.
It is probably while both the Hobbit and LOTR start there. It's a place that we can relate to, but go outside of the familiar and you never know what adventures await.
This IS why the Shire feels this way, but it's a little more complicated. When Tolkien started both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, both stories were explicitly NOT part of Middle-earth. They borrowed elements from it, but there was no literal connection between them. It was not until Tolkien had written several drafts up through the attack on Weathertop that he started to link them explicitly, when Trotter starts to tell the story of Beren and Luthien. He later goes back and revises things, both in his drafts for The Lord of the Rings and for a new edition of The Hobbit, in which the ties are made stronger.

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Re: Realism in Middle-earth

Post by Wbweather » Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:01 pm

Stormcrow wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 7:32 pm
This IS why the Shire feels this way, but it's a little more complicated. When Tolkien started both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, both stories were explicitly NOT part of Middle-earth. They borrowed elements from it, but there was no literal connection between them. It was not until Tolkien had written several drafts up through the attack on Weathertop that he started to link them explicitly, when Trotter starts to tell the story of Beren and Luthien. He later goes back and revises things, both in his drafts for The Lord of the Rings and for a new edition of The Hobbit, in which the ties are made stronger.
Right, and while that is how the story came about, I think my point is that it works for us the reader because we are not dropped right into a story of high fantasy, but we set off on our own adventure from a safe and familiar place. The Simarillion, Children of Hurin, Beren and Luthien are magnificent books, but not easily accessible. The genius of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is that we find ourselves swept up in this fantasy world piece by piece, not all at once. I think we also all deep in our hearts want to believe that there is a magical world beyond our comfortable normal existence, if we are just willing to go on a bit of an adventure.

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Re: Realism in Middle-earth

Post by Glorelendil » Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:24 pm

Wait...but the Hobbit makes all sorts of references to things from the Silmarillion, so presumably however he started that story, by the time he was done it was in Middle-earth. So how could LotR have started off as anywhere but in Middle-earth?

Totally deferring to the Tolkien scholars on this one, but I find this puzzling.
Stormcrow wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 7:32 pm
Wbweather wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:28 pm
It needs to contain mantle clocks and postal services, because the reader needs to feel at home there.
This is the key. It feels right. It's not about realism or immersion; it's about evoking the right mood.
Yes. I like that description very much.
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Re: Realism in Middle-earth

Post by Stormcrow » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:15 pm

Tolkien changed quite a bit for the second edition of The Hobbit. (The Gollum chapter especially was significantly different.) And many of the Silmarillion references he used were just him borrowing elements of the mythology to fill out the background. Throw in references to Gondolin. The Elvenking is just a recycled Thingol. Mirkwood is just a recycled Taur-na-Fuin, spiders and all. Mention the Necromancer. Also, many elements got added TO the Silmarillion because they appeared in TH and LOTR, like Olorin and Galadriel, neither of whom were in the mythology before.

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Re: Realism in Middle-earth

Post by Glorelendil » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:55 pm

Stormcrow wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:15 pm
Tolkien changed quite a bit for the second edition of The Hobbit. (The Gollum chapter especially was significantly different.) And many of the Silmarillion references he used were just him borrowing elements of the mythology to fill out the background. Throw in references to Gondolin. The Elvenking is just a recycled Thingol. Mirkwood is just a recycled Taur-na-Fuin, spiders and all. Mention the Necromancer. Also, many elements got added TO the Silmarillion because they appeared in TH and LOTR, like Olorin and Galadriel, neither of whom were in the mythology before.
Well, damn. Who knew? (You, obviously.)

Thanks.
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Re: Realism in Middle-earth

Post by Matt Clark » Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:13 am

Well it's good to see a mention of Carl Jung along with Tolkien and the subject of realism! There is a lot to connect these two in their themes and ideas (perhaps most pertinent - 'psychic reality' and the 'dream.' 'Dreaming the dream onward' says Jung.

It is Tolkien's discussion about the importance of escapism and faerie and where it led him that also reads similar to Jung's study of the collective unconscious and his own process of 'active imagination' that appears relevant here.

More particularly Jung once described the nature of archetypes as 'like a dried up river bed that has it's source always from the same place/start and heading in the same direction.' When the 'water' comes, it flows from the same place but finds a different channel each time as the archetypal pattern is experienced in a different variation from one person to the next. Some of these channels are closely parallel, others slightly more apart and others yet more distant. But they each go back to the same source

I think Tolkien - like Jung gives us the archetypal idea or theme about the nature of a pattern or idea. It is then for the individual to bring their own ego and active imagination to the detail and this will inevitably differ from one person to the next, but are nonetheless related at their source. There is clearly a huge amount of detail to be coloured in when reading Tolkien's Middle Earth. Some he does more than other areas. Archetypally speaking he gives us 'the map' but leaves the detail of the territory to the reader's imagination. or perhaps more particularly here - the Lore Master.

Tolkien, like Jung when I first came across his work, greatly stirred and captivates the contents of my unconscious and still does.

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Re: Realism in Middle-earth

Post by Terisonen » Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:43 pm

Stormcrow wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 7:32 pm

This IS why the Shire feels this way, but it's a little more complicated. When Tolkien started both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, both stories were explicitly NOT part of Middle-earth. They borrowed elements from it, but there was no literal connection between them. It was not until Tolkien had written several drafts up through the attack on Weathertop that he started to link them explicitly, when Trotter starts to tell the story of Beren and Luthien. He later goes back and revises things, both in his drafts for The Lord of the Rings and for a new edition of The Hobbit, in which the ties are made stronger.
So true. I have always the feeling that the LOTR story derailed itself from whatever Tolkien wanted to write. Hopefully for the best.
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Re: Realism in Middle-earth

Post by Girithan » Sun Jan 14, 2018 12:08 am

Halbarad wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 5:14 pm
There are a number of oblique/discreet references to gambling in LotR. Perhaps not by way of gambling houses, but it is safe to assume that games of chance using Dice exist and that betting on outcomes(wagers) are in existence. The very fact that the word ‘wager’ is used on a number of occasions is, for me, proof positive that the winning of coin on games of chance is not unknown. It is not a big step for me to accept that in large settlements, especially where working men and soldiers congregate, gambling houses might possibly exist. For me then, this would not break my immersion in Middle Earth.

Just my tuppence worth.
Haven't posted much at all on this forum, but I've been enjoying this discussion -- especially it's demonstration of rational discourse, disagreement and resolution of same. To the point: I agree, wholeheartedly, with Halbarad's comment here.

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