I can’t possibly read all the defenses of Tolkien’s works against racism. Too many people have been drawn into this neverending story of racist bias in The Lord of the Rings. The accusations of racism resonate strongly with all of us, and I have even read a scholarly paper that attempts to break down the pro and con views into categories or types. So I apologize to those of you who have raised the anti-Nordicist defense but I blame Google for making it impossible to find such arguments.
Nordicism is one of those words I only rarely stumble across. I have no sympathies with people who think in terms of “race” and “purity” and other primitive rules of distinction. I will have to teach myself to use words like Nordic, Nordicism, and Nordicist because these are terms that you can easily find in accusations made against Tolkien, or discussions of the accusations made against him. (more…)
Years ago when the first attempt to launch a licensed massively multiplayer game based on Middle-earth was still in process there was much debate among waiting players about whether they should be permitted to play Noldorin warriors. Some people wanted the ability to swashbuckle their way across the landscape of Middle-earth and others feared the Player-versus-Player advantages that a “real” Noldo would have against, say, a Silvan Elf or a Dwarf.
The idea that you could play a Noldorin warrior capable of matching the great warriors of the First Age was both a tempting and fearful prospect, and yet now many games have come and gone and people routinely play god-like characters (or even gods in Smite!) without worrying about whether one character is too powerful for the game. The engineering of the game is supposed to ensure there is balance. (more…)
I have always been fascinated with Cerin Amroth, the tree-capped hill in Lothlorien where Haldir removed the blind-folds from the Fellowship. He led Frodo up to the high flet that (presumably) marked where Amroth had once lived. Tolkien’s description of the hill, topped with two circles of trees, always struck me as being modeled on a real place but I have never come across any attempts to identify such a place.
Maybe it is because there are (or were) several likely places in England that could have served as models for Cerin Amroth. Just spending a little bit of time searching the Web for circles of trees in England I found several references, of which Chanctonbury Ring near Worthing and Brighton seems to me very similar to Cerin Amroth. (more…)
There are no hieroglyphs or bas-reliefs in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. That’s a curious omission from a pseudo-historical narrative of the ancient world, don’t you think? And when it comes to statues the Elves do trees and the Gondorians do kings, but how many real examples of statues can you find in The Lord of the Rings? Nonetheless, there is little to no evidence of actual writing carved in stone. I can think of Balin’s tombstone, but everything else is just an ambiguously “carven pillar”. (more…)
Every now and then I stumble across a Web discussion about some fictional world where someone, attempting to explain the inexplicable points of the fiction, sums up their argument with a variation of, “And as always, in a fictional world the author’s logic always works.”
That’s an important lesson for people who want to hold their fiction to a rigid scientificist realism: the author may not have the science down right, but (s)he sees the story unfolding and makes a best effort to write it all down before the facts slip away. We the readers must accept and infer from the author’s efforts what seems like a reasonable supposition: in a fictional world, if the author says eggs bake themselves, then eggs bake themselves. (more…)
If you should ever wish to confuse and confound your friends (or enemies), challenge them to identify and explain the five main sub-plots in “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”. It’s a very complex movie that was widely criticized for being too simple. Such is the way of fiction.
In order to be successful and popular every story, no matter how short, must include some complexity. Complexity is a good word to describe what we cannot describe succinctly. It is also a smokescreen word we use to hide our distaste for things. A story is too complex if we don’t like it and it is not complex enough if we don’t like it. (more…)
One of the most amusing fan debates (for me) has been the legend of the Ent-wives, launched by an anonymous forum member using the name Teleporno. Teleporno’s thread, “I found the Ent-wives!”, became infuriatingly long and devoid of helpful information for many fans, although it certainly drew a lot of interesting comments and facts. (more…)
One of the most frequent requests I receive from fans of Tolkien and Middle-earth is to speculate on what The Silmarillion might have looked like, “had Tolkien finished it”. This is a really popular topic. I have stumbled across more than one attempt to produce a (pseudo)-canonical Silmarillion text through the years. Canonical contrivances always lead into the Valley of Canonical Collisions. There is no canon, and everyone has their own idea of what should be canon. The problem is of such universal proportions that the Vulcans have a saying: “Only J.R.R. Tolkien can write a canonical Silmarillion; everything else is fan fiction.”
John Garth’s revelation that “The Notion Club Papers” contains a secret message from J.R.R. Tolkien (so I see it) is an interesting find. I could not help but be a failed Thief of Baghdad by leaving the path to the True Treasure to turn aside and reach for glistening little gems. In other words, once I read the Tolkien Society article and John’s blog about the connections Tolkien drew to the “Earendel” poem I could not help myself. I had to start thinking about related and distracting things.
Somewhere in-between the fact that Tolkien mentions Gollum eating a baby Orc in one draft of The Hobbit and the fact that Arundel is a village name of debatable etymology (one fabulous story suggests its name may originate from that of a horse) I have managed to stumble toward an oft-cited quote from The Lord of the Rings: “He that breaks a thing to learn what it is has left the path of wisdom”.
Did J.R.R. Tolkien model the geography of Lindon on Wales? This question has only been asked a couple of times on the Internet, as best I can determine, and no one has really devised a convincing argument in favor of the idea. So it’s not a burning issue but it piqued my interest after I noticed a question on the Tolkien Society’s Facebook page about whether the Lonely Mountain might have been inspired by the Wrekin (a large hill northeast of Birmingham, west of Telford and east of Shropshire).