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Topic: resolving "Middle earth as our earth" with Tolkien's religiosity

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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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Date: Feb 8, 2012
resolving "Middle earth as our earth" with Tolkien's religiosity

It's pretty well-known that Tolkien had long toyed with device of making Middle Earth an earlier, long forgotten version of *our* earth. This is explicit in the tales of Aelfwine/Eriol, the notion that Tolkien somehow got his hands on "The Red Book", and little things like Tolkien making an effort to remove mentions of New World goods (eg. tomatoes) from "The Hobbit" as Middle Earth was supposed to be ancient Europe.

I don't knowreal reasonwhy the idea was dropped, or a least, not fully developed. But I have my ideas, and I'd appreciate comment on them.

It always seemed to me to be a peculiar thing: It's one thing for a Christian author to create and describe a non-Christian world as an explicit work of fiction, but it seems a stretch too far for him to create a fictional, non-Christian history for our world.

Not in the sense that the latter would be blasphemous (a history of a fictional land or a fictional history of a real land, it's all fiction), but because a fictional prehistory of our world must grapple with defining, major features of our world and Tolkien's, and Christianity is one of those features.

If Tolkien's legendarium were to be interpreted as a fictional prehistory of Europe, he'd have to come up with some kind of resolution (in the fictional setting) of the events in the Silmarillion with the widespread beliefby mankind in the events described in the Bible. Even in a fictional context, I cannot imagine Tolkien saying either "they're really the same, here's how..." or "Christianity was a half-truth cooked up by men".

I suspect that, ultimately, that this is the reason the idea was not developed too fully.

Any thoughts from the experts?



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Loremaster Elf of Mirkwood - Rank 4
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Date: Feb 9, 2012


In his book of "Letters". there are footnotes referring the religion or lack of in Middle-earth. Tolkien said there there were no temples, no churches. The one temple that was build was on Westerness. But it was to the worship of Melkor, or was it Morgoth?, I forget. But any ways, it was a dark and evil practice of torture and blood sacrifice.

Men may have known of Eru but there was no formal worship as such. It was a practice of Faramir and his men to face West before the evening meal. But this was more a tribute to the memory and loss of Westerness then a time of evening prayer to Eru.

It was the Elves that brought the knowledge of Eru to Man and Hobbit. It was the Elves that taught the Hobbits to pray.



-- Edited by Anorlas on Thursday 9th of February 2012 04:33:41 PM

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Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
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I'm no expert but it seems to me that Tolkien dropped the framework of Elfwine for the framework of another Elfwine -- Bilbo (working with a largely Numenorean and Mannish transmission of texts)

But the concept of the 'found book' was never dropped, nor that Middle-earth is our Earth, and thus our past. The mythicconnections were closer tothe Primary World in The Book of Lost Tales, especially regarding England, Hengest and Horsa and so on, but even when Tolkien laterimagined a much longertime between the Elder Daysand 'today', I think the conceit of Middle-earth being our world was important to him.

I think he generally describes his Secondary World as 'pre-Christian' butat the momentI don't have more to say in this arena specifically.



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Tom Bombadil
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Morgoth and Melkor are the same Anorlas, as I am sure you already know.
But I am not sure where you find a quote that shows that Bilbo was taught to "pray" at the last Homely House where he spent most of his declining years. Being of the Jewish Faith, I am appreciative that Tolkien didn't build a religious structure in Middle-earth.
I for one would feel uncomfortable if there was a religious element in the books and the movies.
I grew up in Germany and had to learn Christian Doctrine in Public School, which I aced. And anybody with a little but of religious training can pick out the religious parts, lie Gandalf dying and rising after "3 life years of earth" being out of time, etc. coming back as Gandalf "The White" having a ethereal glow about him. I am sure you get my drift.

And also welcome to the Forums steelcutoats. (Steel cut Oats are my favorite Oats. I use Mc Cann's)

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Loremaster Elf of Mirkwood - Rank 4
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Date: Feb 12, 2012



I'm not sure that it was specifically Bilbo that Tolkien was talking about. I do know that it is mentioned somewhere in Tolkien's writings. If I can ever unpack my books again...or I am sure someone here can come up with that information.


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Tom Bombadil
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I have some of those HoME books. DO you sort of remember which book it might have been in?

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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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Perhaps I was making too much of this.... The fanciful idea of Middle-earth being ancient "Our earth" is necessarily vague about how it goes from the fourth age to Tolkien's age, as it is a fantasy at odds with pretty much all of human science, history, archaeology, religion, etc. Trying to "resolve" the Silmarillion with the accounts of Genesis is of course, absurd. Just because Tolkien was a Catholic who wrote fantasy novels does not require that the in-world accounts of those fictional worlds be consistent with Catholic doctrine (or the modern science of plate tectonics or whatever).

Indeed, I may have read too much into the books and then tried to solve a riddle of my own creation.



-- Edited by steelcutoats on Monday 13th of February 2012 06:38:25 PM

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Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
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Anorlas wrote: I'm not sure that it was specifically Bilbo that Tolkien was talking about. I do know that it is mentioned somewhere in Tolkien's writings. If I can ever unpack my books again...or I am sure someone here can come up with that information.

If you are referring to my post, I just meanBilbo 'the Elfwine' (meaning 'Elf friend') and his Translations from the Elvish. All I mean is that Bilbo was part of the new orrevised transmission of texts -- 'revised'if Elfwine (the Anglo-Saxon mariner) was truly out of the picture in all ways, that is, as he seems to be.



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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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steelcutoats,

Reading too much into it or not I admire the energy and open-minded insight you brought to this question.

A agree with you that if one premise is true not all those premises that follow are necessarily true.

The idea of projecting our ideas into literary works is an old one ... indeed I have heard and seen projected on the Bible ... for example where certain elements in the southern United States before our civil war projected onto the Bible a rationalization for slavery ... or polygamy ... or fascism.

So why should that projective energy exclude Tolkien's works?

steelcutoats what I have seen in this thread is simply a pursuit of a premise and a logical refutation of it.

A good thing and not erroneous except in "Middle earth as our earth" and in that only the projection you acknowledge in your last post;
'Indeed, I may have read too much into the books and then tried to solve a riddle of my own creation."

Again I compliment you on your courage, your insight, and your follow through.

And on that I don't think I'm projecting one damn bit.

Well done!

Bear



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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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Date: Feb 15, 2012

Hi Bear.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. My thoughts on the matter now (based on reading some letters of Tolkien) is that Middle-earth is "our earth" in the sense that the Iliad and Beowulf take place on "our earth": A tale of a fictional distant past with enough similarities to evoke our familiarity. However, the connection to our time is itself a bit lost and hazy, simply because it would make the tale convoluted and silly. (As anybody trying to reconcile Middle-earth with our religions or geological science will attest.)

Here's some quotes from the Professor's letters that I found on the matter:


"As for the shape of the world of the Third Age, I am afraid that was devised 'dramatically' rather than geologically, or paleontologically." (Letters, no. 169)

"I am historically minded. Middle-earth is not an imaginary world. The name is the modern form (appearing in the 13th century) of midden-erd>middel-erd, an ancient name for the oikoumene, the abiding place of Men, the objectively real world, in use specifically opposed to imaginary worlds (as Fairyland) or unseen worlds (as Heaven or Hell). The theatre of my tale is this earth, the one in which we now live, but the historical period is imaginary. The essentials of that abiding place are all there (at any rate for inhabitants of N.W. Europe), so naturally it feels familiar, even if a little glorified by enchantment of distance in time."(Letters, no. 183)

"...if it were 'history', it would be difficult to fit the lands and events (or 'cultures') into such evidence as we possess, archaeological or geological, concerning the nearer or remoter part of what is now called Europe; though the Shire, for instance, is expressly stated to have been in this region...I hope the, evidently long but undefined gap* in time between the Fall of Barad-dr and our Days is sufficient for 'literary credibility', even for readers acquainted with what is known as 'pre-history'. I have, I suppose, constructed an imaginary time, but kept my feet on my own mother-earth for place. I prefer that to the contemporary mode of seeking remote globes in 'space'. However curious, they are alien, and not loveable with the love of blood-kin..."(Letters, no. 211)

I find the last quote particularly important: I suggests to me that Tolkien consciously adopted the device of making Middle-earth "our earth" rather than a distant planet (as was popular in the fantastic literature of his day).



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Loremaster Elf of Mirkwood - Rank 4
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Date: Feb 15, 2012

A note concerning my post about Elves teaching Hobbits to pray, Tolkien may have mentioned it in one of his many synopsis' that he wrote to people. Sorry I can't be any more specific then that.

I do know that Sam, at least once, prayed and it was "in a language he didn't know". It turned out to be Quenya, if I'm not mistaken.


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Tom Bombadil
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Ah, the "Earendil Ancalima". Got it Anorlas.
How are you doing my friend?

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Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo!
Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow!
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Loremaster Elf of Mirkwood - Rank 4
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Date: Feb 29, 2012


I am doing well, Lady Arwen. And yourself?

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