Random Tidbits The Letters of JRR T

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Random Tidbits The Letters of JRR T

Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Dec 26, 2003 4:37 pm

I just got the Letters of JRR Tolkien for Christmas (which was top on my list, next to an Agent Smith action figure, but that's another story), and on only the 13th letter I found something quite amusing...

(talking about publication of The Hobbit by Americans)
"As for the illustrations: I am divided between knowledge of my own inability and fear of what American artists (doubtless of admirable skill) might produce... It might be advisable, rather than lose the American interest, to let the Americans do what seems good to them - as long as it is possible (I should like to add) to veto anything from or influenced by the Disney studios (for all whose works I have a heartfelt loathing)."

I found that to be quite amusing.
(I think he might have liked Finding Nemo, though, had he lived to see the day... ;))

Anyway, I'll keep you posted if I find out anything else cool or amusing.
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Re: Random Tidbits The Letters of JRR T

Post by MayorOfLongview » Fri Dec 26, 2003 7:27 pm

Sam Gamgee wrote:I just got the Letters of JRR Tolkien for Christmas (which was top on my list, next to an Agent Smith action figure, but that's another story), and on only the 13th letter I found something quite amusing...

(talking about publication of The Hobbit by Americans)
"As for the illustrations: I am divided between knowledge of my own inability and fear of what American artists (doubtless of admirable skill) might produce... It might be advisable, rather than lose the American interest, to let the Americans do what seems good to them - as long as it is possible (I should like to add) to veto anything from or influenced by the Disney studios (for all whose works I have a heartfelt loathing)."

I found that to be quite amusing.
(I think he might have liked Finding Nemo, though, had he lived to see the day... ;))

Anyway, I'll keep you posted if I find out anything else cool or amusing.


It was probably those 7 dwarves that got to him :)
Steve
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Sat Dec 27, 2003 12:04 am

Oh, also, Tolkien apparently had a hand in inventing the word twerp. They don't know for certain, but it appeared in the Oxford Dictionary right at the time when Tolkien was working on it, and also at the time when he happened to know a certian T. W. Earp, whom he called "The original twerp." haha! I'm going to have to use that word more often now. (Sam, you're a twerp. Yeah, I know. heehee!)

And noticing the plural Steve used for dwarves, I must comment: at the time he wrote the Hobbit, the technically correct plural of dwarf was dwarfs. He used dwarves instead, however (it reminded him more of the archaic plural "dwarrow" :eyebrow:, which he later wished he had used), and when his editors complained, his reply was, "I changed my mind since I wrote the dictionary." :lol:

Tolkien rocks.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Jan 02, 2004 6:49 pm

More quotes today! These had me laughing out loud...

'Lewis is as energetic and jolly as ever, but getting too much publicity for his or any of our tastes. "Peterborough" did him the doubtful honour of a peculiarly misrepresentative and asinine paragraph in the Daily Telegraph. It began "Ascetic Mr. Lewis"...!!! I ask you! He put away three pints in a very short session we had this morning and said he was "going short for Lent".' (Letter 56)
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Jan 02, 2004 6:54 pm

"The bigger things get the smaller and duller or flatter the globe gets. It is getting to be all one blasted little provincial suberb. When they have introduced American sanitation, morale-pep, feminism, and mass production throughout the Near East, Middle East, Far East, U.S.S.R., the Pampas, el Gran Chaco, the Danubian Basin, Equatorial Africa, Hither Further and Inner Mumbo-land, Gondhwanaland, Lhasa, and the villages of darkest Berkshire, how happy we shall be. At any rate it ought to cut down travel. There will be nowhere to go. So people will (I opine) go all the faster. ['Collie'] Knox says 1/8 of the world's population speaks 'English', and that is the biggest language group. If true, water-holder-backer shame - say I. May the curse of Babel strike all their tongues till they can only say 'baa baa'. It would mean much the same. I think I shall have to refuse to speak anything but Old Mercian." (Letter 53)
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Jan 02, 2004 7:02 pm

"...I found myself in a carraige occipied by an R.A.F. officer...., and a nice young American Officer, New-Englander. I stood the hot-air as they let off as long as I could; but when I heard the Yank burbling about 'Feudalism' and its results on English class-distinctions and social behaviour, I opened a broadside. The poor boob had not, of course, the very faintest notions about 'Feudalism', or history at all - being a chemical engineer. But you can't knock 'Feudalism' out of an American's head, any more than the 'Oxford Accent'. He was impressed I think when I said that an Englishman's relations with porters, butlers, and tradesmen had as much connexion with 'Feudalism' as skyscrapers had with red Indian wigwams, or taking off one's hat to a lady has with the modern methods of collecting Income Tax; but I am certain he was not convinced. I did, however, get a dim notion into his head that the 'Oxford Accent' (by which he politely told me he meant mine) was not 'forced' and 'put on', but a natural one learned in the nursery - and was moreover not a feudal or aristocratic but a very middle-class bourgeois invention. After I told him that his 'accent' sounded to me like English after being wiped over with a dirty sponge, and generally suggested (falsely) to an English observer that, together with American slouch, it indicated a slovenly and ill-disciplined people - well, we got quite friendly." (58)
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Sat Jan 03, 2004 12:16 pm

Now for some really cool, serious quotes, mostly taken from his letters to Christopher, who was at that time in the army:

"There is a place called ‘heaven’ where the good here unfinished is completed; and where the stories unwritten, and the hopes unfulfilled, are continued. We may laugh together yet…" (Letter 45)

"I sometimes feel appalled at the thought of the sum total of human misery all over the world at the present moment: the millions parted, fretting, wasting in unprofitable days – quite apart from torture, pain, death, bereavement, injustice. If anguish were visible, almost the whole of this benighted planet would be enveloped in a dense dark vapor, shrouded from the amazed vision of the heavens! And the products of it all will be mainly evil – historically considered. But the historical version is, of course, not the only one. All things and deeds have a value in themselves, apart from their ‘causes’ and ‘effects’. No man can estimate what is really happening at the present sub speciae aeternitatis. All we do know, and that to a large extent by direct experience, is that evil labours with vast power and perpetual success - in vain: preparing always only the soil for unexpected good to sprout in." (Letter 64)

"A small knowledge of history depresses one with the sense of the everlasting mass and weight of human iniquity: old, old, dreary endless repetitive unchanging incurable wickedness. All towns, all villages, all habitations of men – sinks! And at the same time one knows that there is always good: much more hidden, much less clearly discerned, seldom breaking out into recognizable, visible, beauties of word or deed or face – not even when in fact sanctity, far greater than the visible advertised wickedness, is really there." (Letter 69)

(about the war)
"An ultimately evil job. For we are attempting to conquer Sauron with the Ring. And we shall (it seems) succeed. But the penalty is, as you will know, to breed new Saurons, and slowly turn Men and Elves into Orcs. Not that in real life things are as clear but as in a story, and we started out with a great many Orcs on our side…. Well, there you are: a hobbit amongst the Urukhai. Keep up your hobbitry at heart, and think that all stories feel like that when you are in them. You are inside a very great story!" (Letter 66)

"I sense amongst all your pains (some merely physical) the desire to express your feeling about good, evil, fair, foul in some way to rationalize it, and prevent it just festering. In my case it generated Morgoth and the History of the Gnomes. Lots of the early parts of which (and the languages) – discarded or absorbed – were done in grimy canteens, at lectures in cold fogs, in huts full of blasphemy and smut, or by candle light in bell-tents, even some down in dugouts under shell fire." (Letter 66)
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Post by johnc » Sat Jan 03, 2004 11:28 pm

I read in today's newspaper that today is the 112th anniversary of Tolkien's birth. So--happy birthday, John Ronald Ruel, wherever you are.

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Post by Sam Gamgee » Sat Jan 03, 2004 11:55 pm

I'm guessing that would be heaven.

"Throw off the chains for the mortal is done away
Her heart is breaking for joy unknown..."


Alasse merendenna i Carmo!
Lit. "Merriment at the feast of the Subcreator!
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Post by CanarioAB » Sun Jan 04, 2004 10:11 pm

Actually, Tolkien's birthday was Saturday the 3rd ... and his eleventy-first as well :)


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Post by Sam Gamgee » Sun Jan 04, 2004 10:16 pm

The message was posted on Saturday the 3rd in my time zone. *shrug*

Actually, his 111st was last year. Trust me, I know because theonering.net made a big fuss over it, talking about all these parties people were having. ;)
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Post by CanarioAB » Sun Jan 04, 2004 10:37 pm

My webpage said the post was made on Sunday. The 'eleventy-first' info was straight from the BBC page ... but now I see it refers to 2003, not 2004. My bad. I'm jet lagged.

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Post by idoron » Sun Jan 04, 2004 11:19 pm

And we didn't even have a party.

For shame!
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Apr 09, 2004 7:06 pm

I just typed up a whole bunch more, so I'll post them in chunks somewhat related, to make for easier reading.

The Story

A new character has come on the scene (I am surely I did not invent him, I did not even want him, though I like him, but there he came walking into the woods of Ithilien): Faramir, the brother of Boromir – and he is holding up the ‘catastrophe’ by a lot of stuff about the history of Gondor and Rohan (with some very sound reflections no doubt on martial glory and true glory): but if he goes on much more a lot of him will have to be removed to the appendices. (Letter 66)

Of course, Allegory and Story converge, meeting somewhere in the Truth. So that the only perfectly consistent allegory is a real life, and the only fully intelligible story is an allegory. And one finds, even in imperfect human ‘literature’, that the better and more consistent an allegory is the more easily it can be read ‘just as a story’; and the better and more closely woven a story is the more easily can those so minded find allegory in it. But the two start from opposite ends. (Letter 109)

[The Elves’] ‘magic’ is Art, delivered from many of its human limitations: more effortless, more quick, more complete (product, and vision in unflawed correspondence). And its object is Art not Power, sub-creation not domination and tyrannous re-forming of Creation. The ‘Elves are ‘immortal’, at least as far as this world goes: and hence are concerned rather with the griefs and burdens of deathlessness in time and change, than with death. The Enemy in successive forms is always ‘naturally’ concerned with sheer Domination, and so the Lord of magic and machines; but the problem: that this frightful evil can and does arise from an apparently good root, the desires to benefit the world and others – speedily and according to the benefactor’s own plans is a recurrent motive. Not in the Beginner of Evil: his was a sub-creative Fall, and hence the Elves (the representatives of sub-creation par excellence)) were peculiarly his enemies, and the special object of his desire and hate – and open to his deceits. Their Fall is into possessiveness and (to a less degree) of perversion of their art to power. (Letter 131)

But as the earliest Tales are seen through Elvish eyes, as it were, this last great Tale, coming down from myth and legend to the earth, is seen mainly through the eyes of Hobbits: it thus becomes in fact anthropocentric. But though Hobbits, not Men so-called, because the last Tale is to exemplify most clearly a recurrent theme: the place in ‘world politics’ of the unforeseen and unforeseeable acts of will, and deeds of virtue of the apparently small, ungreat, forgotten in the places of the Wise and Great (good as well as evil). A moral of the whole (after primary symbolism of the Ring, as the will to mere power, seeking to make itself objective by physical force and mechanism, and so also inevitably by lies) is the obvious one that without the high and noble the simple and vulgar is utterly mean; and without the simple and ordinary the noble and heroic is meaningless. (Letter 131)

The particular branch of the High Elves concerned, the Noldor or Loremasters, were always on the side of ‘science and technology’, as we should call it: they wanted to have the knowledge that Sauron genuinely had, and those of Eregion refused the warnings of Gilgalad and Elrond. The particular ‘desire’ of the Eregion Elves – an ‘allegory’ if you like of a love of machinery, and technical devices – is also symbolized by their special friendship with the Dwarves of Moria.
I should regard them as no more wicked or foolish (but in much the same peril) as Catholics engaged in certain kinds of physical research (e.g. those producing, if only as by-products, poisonous gases and explosives): things not necessarily evil, but which, things being as they are, and the nature and motives of the economic masters who provide all the means for their work being as they are, are pretty certain to serve evil ends. For which they will not necessarily be to blame, even if aware of them. (Letter 153)

Having mentioned Free Will, I might say that in my myth I have used ‘subcreation’ in a special way… to make visible and physical the effects of Sin or misused Free Will by men. Free Will is derivative, and is therefore only operative within provided circumstances; but in order that it may exist, it is necessary that the Author should guarantee it, whatever betides: sc. When it is ‘against His Will’, as we say, at any rate as it appears on a finite view. He does not stop or make ‘unreal’ sinful acts and their consequences. So in this myth it is ‘feigned’ that He gave special ‘sub-creative’ powers to certain of His highest created beings: that is a guarantee that what they devised and made should be given the reality of Creation. Of course within limits, and of course subject to certain commands of prohibitions. But if they ‘feel’, as the Diabolus Morgoth did, and started making things ‘for himself to be their Lord’, there would then ‘be’, even if Morgoth broke the supreme ban against making other ‘ration’ creatures like Elves or Men. They would at least ‘be’ real physical realities in the physical world, however evil they might prove, even ‘mocking’ the Children of God. They would be Morgoth’s greatest Sins, abuses of his highest privilege, and would be creatures begotten of Sin, and naturally bad. (Letter 153)

“Gandalf alone fully passes the tests, on a moral plane anyway (he makes mistakes of judgment). For in his condition it was for him a sacrifice to perish on the Bridge in defense of his companions, less perhaps than for a mortal Man or Hobbit, since he had a far greater inner power than they; but also more, since it was a humbling and abnegation of himself in the conformity to ‘the Rules’: for all he could know at that moment he was the only person who could direct the resistance to Sauron successfully, and all his mission was vain. He was handing over to the Authority that ordained the Rules, and giving up personal hope of success.” (Letter 156)

“I gave up the attempt to invent an ‘unrecorded’ Germanic language, and my ‘own language’ – or series of invented languages – became heavily Finnicized in phonetic pattern and structure… All this only as background to the stories, though languages and names are for me inextricable from the stories. They are and were so to speak an attempt to give a background or a world in which my expressions of linguistic taste could have a function. The stories were comparatively late in coming.” (Letter 163)

“I first tried to write a story when I was about seven. It was about a dragon. I remember nothing about it except a philological fact. My mother said nothing about the dragon, but pointed out that one could not say ‘a green great dragon’, but had to say ‘a great green dragon’. I wondered why, and still do.” (Letter 163)

“All I remember about the start of The Hobbit is sitting correcting School Certificate papers in the everlasting weariness of that annual task forced on impecunious academics with children. On a blank leaf I scrawled: ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ I did not and do not know why.” (Letter 163)

“I do not think that even Power or Domination is the real centre of my story… The real theme for me is something about much more permanent and difficult: Death and Immortality: the mystery of the love of the world in the hearts of a race ‘doomed’ to leave and seemingly lose it, the anguish in the hearts of a race ‘doomed’ not to leave it, until its whole evil-aroused story is complete.” (Letter 186)

“If you re-read all the passages dealing with Frodo and the Ring, I think you will see that not only was it quite impossible for him to surrender the Ring, in act or will, especially at its point of maximum power, but that this failure was adumbrated from far back. He was honoured because he had accepted the burden voluntarily, and had then done all that was within his utmost physical and mental strength to do. He (and the Cause) were saved - by Mercy: by the supreme value and efficacy and forgiveness of injury.
Corinthians I x. 12-13 may not at first sight seem to fit – unless ‘bearing temptation’ is taken to mean resisting it while still a free agent in normal command of the will. I think rather of the mysterious petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. A petition against something that cannot happen is unmeanining. There exists the possibility of being placed in positions beyond one’s power. In which case (as I believe) salvation from ruin will depend on something apparently unconnected: the general sanctity (and humility and mercy) of the sacrificial person…
No, Frodo ‘failed’. It is possible that once the ring was destroyed he had little recollection of the last scene. But one must face the fact: the power of Evil in the world is not finally resistible by incarnate creatures, however ‘good’; and the Writer of the Story is not one of us.” (Letter 191)

“As far as I am concerned personally, I should welcome the idea of an animated motion picture, with all the risk of vulgarization; and that quite apart from the glint of money, though on the brink of retirement that is not an unpleasant possibility. It think I should find vulgarization less painful than the sillification achieved by the B.B.C.” (Letter 198)

“Stanley Unwin and I have agreed on our policy: Art or Cash. Either very profitable terms indeed; or absolute author’s veto on objectionable features or alterations.” (Letter 202)
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Apr 09, 2004 7:07 pm

Religion, history, philosophy

A small knowledge of history depresses one with the sense of the everlasting mass and weight of human iniquity: old, old, dreary endless repetitive unchanging incurable wickedness. All towns, all villages, all habitations of men – sinks! And at the same time one knows that there is always good: much more hidden, much less clearly discerned, seldom breaking out into recognizable, visible, beauties of word or deed or face – not even when in fact sanctity, far greater than the visible advertised wickedness, is really there. (Letter 69)

“If there is any contemporary reference in my story at all it is to what seems to me the most widespread assumption of our time; that if a things can be done, it must be done.” (Letter 186)

“I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a long ‘defeat; - though it contains some samples or glimpses of a final victory.” (Letter 195)

I perceived or thought of the Light of God and in it suspended one small mote, glittering white because of the individual ray from the Light which both held and lit it. And the ray was the Guardian Angel of the mote: not a thing interposed between God and the creature, but God’s very attention itself, personalized. And I do not mean ‘personified’, by a mere figure of speech according to the tendencies of the human language, but a real (finite) person. (Letter 88)

Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament…. There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth. (Letter 43)

I coined the word ‘eucatastrophe’: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effects because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives – if the story has literary ‘truth’ on the second plane… - that this is indeed the how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying the Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible in the greatest Fairy Story – and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love. Of course, I do not mean that the Gospels tell what is only a fairy story; but I mean very strongly that they do tell a fairy story: the greatest. Man the story-teller would have to be redeemed in a manner consonant with his nature: by a moving story. But since the author if it is to be the supreme Artist and the Author of Reality, this one was also made to Be, to be true on the Primary Plane. So that in the Primary Miracle (the Resurrection) and the lesser Christian miracles too though less, you have not only that sudden glimpse of the truth behind the apparent Anankê of our world, but a glimpse that is actually a ray of light through the very chinks of the universe about us. (Letter 88)

The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism. (Letter 142)

“In my story I do not deal in Absolute Evil. I do not think there is such a thing, since that is Zero. I do not think that at any rate any ‘rational being’ is wholly evil. Satan fell. In my myth Morgoth fell before the Creation of the physical world. In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to the wholly evil will as possible.” (Letter 183)

“In the Lord of the Rings the conflict is not basically about ‘freedom’, though that is naturally involved. It is about God, and His sole right to divine honour. The Eldar and the Númenóreans believed in The One, the true God, and help worship of any other person an abomination. Sauron desired to be a God-King, and was help to be this by his servants; if he had been victorious he would have demanded divine honour from all rational creatures and absolute temporal power over the whole world. So even if in desperation ‘the West’ had bred or hired hordes of orcs and had cruelly ravaged the lands of other Men as asllies of Sauron, or merely to prevent them from aiding him, their Cause would have remained indefeasibly right.” (Letter 183)
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