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Topic: A child of his time

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Hobbit from Hobbiton - Rank 4
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Date: Jun 5, 2010
A child of his time

Here's a thing

Yer man Tolkien grew lived and died in a more inocent time.

By which I mean a reserved, moral and simpler era.

Where Hemp was for ropes and gay meant happy.

How would the works have differed if Toklien was a child of the MTV generation ? 


They told me , "Filli stand by the jams"
I did.
I wasn't disappointed

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Samwise Gamgee - rank 9
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I doubt the works would be written as well, and I doubt they would have anywhere near the depth and intricacy they do had not Tolkien been around in that much pleasanter era.

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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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Filli and mouth of sauron,
I can't buy the cliche of "a more innocent time".
By the time the boy is twelve he has lost his mom and dad.
He fights...and I mean fights...in a war where he loses all his friends...which is reflected in his works such as in the Dead Marshes.
The corruption and imperialism of the British Empire he literally carries from with his birth in South Africa...and while he lived a short time in the "Victorian Age" he also lived in the struggle of the Great Depression, Nazi's rise and fall, The Holocaust, the Cold War, and there difficulties of economic and social revolution...

Maybe you could explain what you mean that he was influenced by a "more innocent time".

While his works are no doubt fantasy ... innocent and naive certainly they are not ...
in fact they are fairly cynical...

Different in the MTV generation ... Saruman as a fat daddy drug lord of the streets ...Denethor as "Richard Nixon" ...  Sam and Frodo as lovers?

Sorry... won't wash.
Bear


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Samwise Gamgee - rank 9
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I was refering to social innocence Bear. Of the kind where people were polite to eachother, there were far fewer gangs on the streets, youth had respect for the elders, you didn't have to worry about walking home late at night. That kind of thing. Not international affairs.

-- Edited by mouth of sauron on Wednesday 9th of June 2010 01:35:08 AM

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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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mouth of sauron and Filli,
I think I failed to make my point...
It was an age where a third of the male population visited a prostitute at least once a month.  Many of these men had venereal disease ... women were still sold into bondage ... usually through a gang ... children starved in the streets next to firms so wealthy that the knockers on their doors were silver or gold ... men were practically owners of their wives, children, and servants ... people were still imprisoned for poaching deer ... racial prejudice was rampant ... and exploitation of the innocent still the norm.
All of the things that you claim describe the age of innocence; ...
"Of the kind where people were polite to each other, there were far fewer gangs on the streets, youth had respect for the elders, you didn't have to worry about walking home late at night ..." were myths and were never true ... they existed at all because some utopian fantasy made it into print ... and the press painted it that way ... God Save the Queen!

"Your man Tolkien grew lived and died in a more innocent time. By which I mean a reserved, moral and simpler era."

Reserved? ... behavior was outrageous, money ruled, excess in every element was celebrated.
Moral? ... sexual? financial? social? political? ... you can find huge examples of the times immorality by picking up any daily paper back then.
Simpler? ... what is simpler when the orphans and widows are on the street beginning for bread?  When the wife had to schedule family events around a mistress she had to pretend didn't exist?
The fact the Tolkien was faithful was heroic for his times ... not the norm ... was he aware? ... just read the story of Eowyn ...


Tolkien may have had different examples or names if he wrote now instead of back then ... he might have enjoyed the advantages of spell check and word processing ... but his romantic and heroic ventures in literature would have been the same ... love and courage ... honor and integrity ... home - like values and generosity to our fellow beings ...

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold it would be a merrier world." - J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien transcends the limitations of time and place ...it is why we hold his work as masterpieces ... and why we read and re-read his works ... drawing pleasure and wonder ... and a kindling of our spirits.

We are just friends with different perspectives ... we would stand with Bilbo, Gandalf, Aragorn, and Samwise ...  not with Sauron or the Uruk-hai ... whether we listen to MTV or not.



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Samwise Gamgee - rank 9
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Date: Jun 10, 2010
You're going back a bit further than I am Bear. I am talking about the 40s and 50s primarily. Kids could play on the street without fear of assault or kidnap, you could walk home at night if you missed the bus with little fear of assault or kidnap. Children were respectful to their parents. There were far less youth underage drinking and smoking, or drug taking. Knife crime was far less than nowadays, gun crime even less. Foreign gangs virtually non-existent. Swearing alot less. Obesity and gluttony far less. An old woman that has been offered assistance to cross a road need not worry that the assiatant will stab her the other side.

That type of thing. Maybe it was different in America, I wouldn't know, but that is what it was like in Britain. Social standards of today are dire.

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Rohirrim of Edoras - Rank 4
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They are indeed dire in the U.S. today. I bleed red, white and blue and I tried to serve and was turned away. It breaks my heart that no one pushes their chair in. No one nods or waves as we pass on the neighborhood roads. No one is stopping to help with a flat tire... anymore. That was how I was raised. You defered to a lady and the elder got his/her way. I think that the idea is that Tolkien grew up in the European times that Bear is describing.  My Grandmother, whom I love and cherish the memory of, picked cotton till her fingers bled. There is nothing glamorous or innocent about that. That was in the 50's, the genteler time you discribe. I think inocence is more a state of mind than state of time. How inocent are you? How jaded are you? The same question could be asked of any of us. To be raised in a time where no one is allowed to say anything that might be overheard or offend anyone else, who is the innocent? This is a deep subject matter that could start a veritable landslide of opinion and experience.

-- Edited by lomoduin on Friday 11th of June 2010 03:33:11 AM

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Rohirrim of Edoras - Rank 4
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Bowing out........

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Anarion, Son of Elendil - rank 8
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Interesting discussion.

I recently read one of the Warhammer books. Vastly different to Middle-earth. Overt displays of magic all the time, mention of practises not told in Middle-earth (I'll leave that one to your imagination), written in a completely different way. But very heavily based on Middle-earth. The dwarf-elf feud was apparent, dwarves portrayed in a similar way as they are in middle-earth, but very extreme, mention of dark-elves, orcs and a variety of other things.

It didn't compare in my opinion. It simply felt as though it was written for a modern generation that perhaps are not satisfied unless there are some....gory...parts, ridiculous overt magic displays and sometimes crude humour. But it wasn't a bad book, in its own way, if you don't expect much to begin with.

-- Edited by Glorfindel1235 on Monday 24th of January 2011 11:41:39 PM

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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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Frankly speaking, I don't think his works would have differed at all. It seems to me that the ability for writing such books depends on personal qualities which have little to do with pecularities of any epoch. It's difficult to formulate what qualities it depends on but I suppose they are rather individual than typical of the whole generation. Besides, it's a well-known fact that people of every epoch consider previous epochs more innocent (it's a psychological phenomenon, if I'm not wrong) and I have no doubt that the epoch when Tolkien lived wasn't an exception. =)

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Hobbit of the Shire Rank 1
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I don't know...

Granted, people are people, and they haven't change much since they first appeared on the scene.  You only need to open a Bible to see that murder, rape (even gang rape, see the story of Sodom and Gomorrah), prostitution, etc, have been with us since the beginning of time.

But I think that there is something to what Filli and MoSare saying, in the sense that children nowadays are a lot less innocent than they used to be, at least when I was a kid.

I think Tolkien did try to create a world that was innocent in the sense that the morality it presents isnot murky and relative but clear and concise:  good is good, evil is evil, and while even good people can be corrupted or at least tempted (as is the case with Frodo at the Sammath Naur), moral relativism is unacceptable.
I think the book 'JRRT, Author of the Century' by Tom Shippey, talks about the contempt with which certain 'intellectual' contemoraries of Tolkien treated his literature.  It was not 'post-modern' enough to their taste.

So, what say you?

Nepherdil

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Anarion, Son of Elendil - rank 8
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An interesting perspective Nephredil. It certainly has clear-cut boundries of what is acceptable and what isn't.

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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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nephredil,
I think your point is well made.
As I sit here typing I wonder what Tolkien's work would reflect if he had access to all the technology and mythological resources that we have.
Would he be jaded or inspired?
His impact on our culture both in myth and fantasy helped trigger huge discussion on ethics and value for simple things.
Indeed his impact goes far beyond literature ...
Role playing games, archetypal psychology, and a zillion other fields and topics were and are part of his legacy.
But what about the man himself?
I would have loved to sit with someone like C.S. Lewis and listen to Tolkien read his latest chapters ...
But would he like a long-haired, ex-hippie, veteran, psychologist, American hanging on his words?
Guess I'll never know ...


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Soldier of Beleriand - Rank 3
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Date: Jan 27, 2011
The question of what his books would have been like now bears on the personal experience of the writer. Much of what Tolkien experienced in real life put marks on his fiction.

There's also the thing that with age, we see facts differently and get a wider view of the world. We are brought face to face with the reality which is not at all so simple as we believe as children. For Tolkien, the example with the Sarehole mill is perhaps worth mentioning. What he as a child thought beautiful and interesting, later in life would seem hard to endure, but not because of formidable changes; rather his perception of the place changed with the years.

If he had lived now, he'd have had access to so much more through the use of technology. It is possible that his works differed fundamentally in tone. Although his stated purpose of writing (as explained in a letter to Milton Waldman in 1951) was to create a mythology for England. Therefore he might still have used the same motifs, but probably expressed in other ways.

In conclusion, my opinion is that what affects a writer is not necessarily the age he lives, but the personal experiences from that particular time he lives in.

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Peoples of Beleriand - Rank 1
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There is a saying amongst artists - "art is a reflection of the society which reared it".
As a generalisation, this is true. Though there are many different layers of society, the prevailing idea will be very apparent in cultural material of the time. This is why historical artwork is so valuable in learning of passed civilisations.
A deep understanding of Tolkien's manner of speaking and the art of language, especially his expression, will lead to a deep understanding of the man himself, and to a lesser extent, his influences.

Tolkien's era was by no means perfect, and I do not hear that from people such as Filli (my greetings). But Tolkien's era had a more distinct concept of the "gentleman", so to speak. Nepherdil summarizes it well (regards).

In Tolkien's books there is none of the lewd junk in so many trashy books of today. The protagonists are upright people, people of integrity. Today so many characters are so filled with flaws I cannot bring myself to respect them. But the people we admire today are totally different. This must be familiar to you all, I know, or you would not love Tolkien so much. Tolkien and those he wrote of inspire loyalty and respect and everything that was admirable to Tolkien in his day.



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Soldier of Beleriand - Rank 3
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In respect to the characters in Tolkien's world, they indeed show very clear traits, and even in those which are not purely black and white, we can still clearly define their personality. For instance in Feanor, we know him to be a great Elf, whose courage and valour, in battle and in craft, are unmatched. However he did initiate the Kinslaying of Alqualonde, and then burnt the ships in Losgar - but the author strives to present these actions in such a way that any reader will consider them bad. It is thus easy to choose whether to like or dislike the respective character.

In other books it is not so easy to differentiate qualities in the same character; their misdeeds are hardly so great that anyone will say they are bad; there might be readers who like those bad deeds and think the character grows through performing them, too.

But Tolkien's decision to have rather black and white characters seems to me to reside in his choosing of fantasy as his genre, which in its traditional form, predating Tolkien by many years, makes a point of the struggle of good against evil. Also Tolkien explains to Milton Waldman in his 1951 letter:

"... once upon a time ... I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, raging from the large and cosmogonic, to the level of romantic fairy-story - the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing spelndour from the vast backcloths ... It should possess the tone and quality that I desired, somewhat cool and clear, be redolent of our 'air' ... and, while possessing (if I could achieve it) the fair elusive beauty that some call Celtic ..., it should be 'high', purged of the gross, and fit for the more adult mind of a land long now steeped in poetry."
-- quoted from 'The Silmarillion'

I believe therefore that Tolkien was well aware of what he was striving to get. In like manner, if he had lived in different times, he probably would not have made that much difference; it would have been one thing if he were writing novels set in the contemporary times, but his are placed in the far past, where the mundane of our world could not be felt in the actions, perhaps only slightly in stile.

-- Edited by John Wain on Saturday 29th of January 2011 11:49:40 AM

-- Edited by John Wain on Saturday 29th of January 2011 11:49:59 AM

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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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I guess as a matter of observation, I can pick out little details about things like spiders, orphans and wars of a global scale that match up in a way to some details about the life and times of J.R.R.T.
But now I have to question myself as to how much of it is there because of being a product of his life and times - and how much of it is apparently there just because it is interpreted as such by myself.

I think that people react in all kinds of ways to his style.  The high-mindedness (perhaps not quite moral in the same way some fairy stories are) is something that can either attract or detract depending on the person, how much their own ideals match (or miss) those highlighted in the story, and how a person feels in general towards ideals and/or morals.
I think in any time there is a mix or spectrum of reactions and ideals to the events of the times.

As for my own reaction, there are some things that make me twitch, some things I feel might be missing, some that make me aspire to try to be a better person myself, and some things that I long to see more of around me in the stories. 

There is also a sense of dignity, nobility, "importance" and respectfulness that stands out alot among several of the characters in the books in a way that I don't think I have seen replicated elsewhere.

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4star.gifI Like this quoteI dislike this quoteThere is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.
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Samwise Gamgee - rank 9
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Ereinion Gil-galad wrote:
In Tolkien's books there is none of the lewd junk in so many trashy books of today. The protagonists are upright people, people of integrity. Today so many characters are so filled with flaws I cannot bring myself to respect them. But the people we admire today are totally different. This must be familiar to you all, I know, or you would not love Tolkien so much. Tolkien and those he wrote of inspire loyalty and respect and everything that was admirable to Tolkien in his day.
I'll quote this for truth!smile.gif The entertainment industry today often seems to cater for the lowest common denominator, more interested in ratings than quality (and sadly the two do not seem to join together that often these days).

Clearly Tolkien's works were created solely for non-profitable reasons. Perhaps that is the crucial point and the reason why Middle-earth has the depth and complexities it does, it was a product of a mans desire to create, rather than a mans desire for money.

 



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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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They are really serious in the United States today. I bleed red, white and blue, I tried to serve, and turned away. It broke my heart, no one to push their chairs in. No one nod or wave as we passed the road in the vicinity....

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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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If Tolkien were born into the MTV generation.... we'd only now be seeing the first edition of the Hobbit.

More seriously, I find the question interesting because its very framing (that there is a better past that we should long for or emulate) is a big piece of Tolkien's appeal, in mind. The longing for a lost past, when things were "better" seems to be part of the human condition. I think that Tolkien incorporated this theme in a huge way with his works.

The entire history of Arda seems to me to be cycles where things go from the cosmological (the singing in of the world), to the mythological (Valar and the Lamps, sacking of Utumno, etc), the legendary (war over the Silimarils), to the start of the Dreary Age of Men. With each passing age, things get a little more mundane.

Interestingly, while we the reader (or the contemporaries of the Fourth Age in Tolkien's fictional world) might view the events of the War of the Ring as high heroism and glory, the contemporaries of the Third Age seem to look back fondly on the days of the First and Second Ages, as described in the Silmarillion. (Although one might question the wisdom of that, as Morgoth was running rampant and at least twice major population centers were plunged under the sea....) I always wondered if the elves of the First Age were meant to look back at the mythological feats of the Age of the Lamps and of Orome hunting Morgoth's beasts as a truer age of glory (whereas they viewed the first age they lived in as somewhat more mundane).




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