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[page 15] TOLKIEN: A SURVEY -Rick Brooks "_The Lord of the Rings_ is probably the most original and varied creation ever seen in the genre and certainly the most self consistant @self-consistent@; yet it is tied up and bridged to reality as is no other fantasy." -Douglass Parker. "Hwaet We Holbytla" HUDSON REVIEW, Winter 1956-57 "For Tolkien's fantasy does not obscure, but illuminates the inner consistancy @consistency@ of reality. There are very few works of genius in recent literature. This is one." -Micheal Straight, "Fantastic World of Professor Tolkien", NEW REPUBLIC, January 16,1956. "We have released fires hotter than the breath of the Worm, but we have never once achieved the lonely nostalgic splendor of Lothorien, that elven land which has passed away from Middle-earth. I say we have not achieved it or its dignity, but one man has created it in our thoughts - Tolkien." -Loren Eiseley, "The Elvish Art of Enchantments", HORN BOOK, August '65. Tolkien, in the minds of most people, is known for his magnificent three-volume work, THE LORD OF THE RINGS. I first read LOTR while a lowly GI stationed in Bangor, Maine. As memory serves, I checked the three volumes out of the public library on a Thursday evening and finished the narrative part of the third volume at about 6 AM Saturday morning. It still fascinated me almost as much on the latest reading. The progress of this article has been held up many times by my inability to put the book right back down after checking a point. From LOTR, I became interested in Tolkien's other works and his sources as well as what others had gotten out of his works. THE TOLKIEN READER - which contains THE ADVENTURES OF TOM BOMBADIL, TREE AND LEAF, FARMER GILES OF HAM, "Tolkien's Magic Ring" by Peter Beagle, and a play and essay on "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son" - is a handy collection for the budget minded, but I would like to see another kind of Tolkien Reader made up of articles on Tolkien. Such studies as Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Men, Halflings and Hero Worship". "Hwaet Weholbytla @We Holbytla@" by Douglass Parker, "Ethical Patterns in _The Lord of the Rings_" by Patrica Spacks, and "The Elvish Art of Enchantment" by Loren Eisely are among the ones I'd select. The Tolkien epic has inspired quite a bit of prose even to a "second-generation" article on Dick Plotz (first head of the Tolkien Society of America) in the April '66 SEVENTEEN. [page 16] Even THE HOBBIT, while not the book that LOTR is, still comes in for some comment. Douglass Parker, who from his article is probably the most informed about speculative fiction of any outside our cosy @cozy@ field who have @has@ reviewed LOTR, considers hobbits "Tolkien's first, and I think his greatest creation." William Blissett finds hobbits to be "of a clear-eyed innocence that will remind a North American reader irresistibly of Pogo." The epic Wars of the Ring are filled with "deeds that only one skilled as Tolkien is in Anglo-Saxon, in the bardic tradition of Beowulf, could re-create and at the same time make meaningful, even to the supplying of the proper songs." (Loren Eiseley, "The Elvish Art of Enchantment) The scope and sweep that Tolkien gives the story are impressive. The vast history stretching back for eon upon eon gives the book a "third dimension" and convinces the reader that he has only scratched the surface of a much greater story. John Campbell in his introduction to THE BLACK STAR PASSES touched on "sense of wonder." John used an anthology of the following sort to make his point. "When a young man goes to college, he is apt to say, 'I want to' be a scientist,' or 'I want to be an engineer'....By the sophomore year, a student may say, 'I want to be a _chemical_ engineering.' At graduation, he may say, 'I'm going in to chemical engineering _construction_.' Ten years later he may explain that he's a chemical engineer specializing in the construction of corrosion-resistant structures, such as electroplating baths and pickling tanks for stainless steel. Year by year, his knowledge has become more specialized, and much deeper. He's better and better able to do the important work the world needs done, but in learning to do it, he's necessarily lost some of the broad and enthusiastic scope he once had." The SF field has followed the same process. As the field matures, it tends to lose a sense of scope and limitless, i.e. a "sense of wonder." But LOTR doesn't share this shortcoming. The writing is mature with as much a sense of wonder as any. Tolkien goes into his background in the appendices of the final volume until the book seems realer than real life. The main appendices deal with the history and the languages of Middle-earth. Even with an expert in languages such as Tolkien, the variety of languages is still impressive. There are two elven languages - High Elven or _Quenya_, a sort of elven-latin, and Grey Elven or _Sindarin_, the language of the elves of Middle-earth - and from what we have of the language of the elves/gnomes of Gondolin, their language was much like High Elven. _Westron_ was a mixture of Anglo-Saxon and elven words used by the men of the west. The Hobbits also used the _Westron_ or [page 17] those of their mannish neighbors. The Ents a slow ponderous language suited to beings who counted the years as little as men counted minutes. The Dwarves had a language which none outside their race had ever learned more than a few words of. The Black Speech was devised by Sauron for the use of his servants during the Dark Years. Few terms of the Black Speech are given besides the Ring-inscription, "but Tolkien shows his genius by making these lines so regular that we can analyze from them a number of elements of the Black Speech grammar and vocabulary." (Mark Mandel, "The Ring Inscription", THE TOLKIEN JOURNAL 1) The most nearly complete language in these pages is the elven dialects of which 19 pages have been compiled from THE HOBBIT and LOTR by Greg Shaw. (Feemwlort #2 & #3) However the most interesting to many people is the _Westron_ that Tolkien based on the early Anglo-Saxon language which he was highly expert in. The names and the sources form another area of considerable interest. In the words of Douglass Parker, "Gollum's original name ('Smeagol') and that of the brother he murdered ('Deagol') seem to evoke the crime of Cain. I preserve my reasoning on this point to show the fascination which Tolkien can exercise on the susceptible. He admittedly (Vol. 3, p. 413) made up their names to 'translate' two names in the Hobbit-speech meaning 'burrowing, worming in' and 'secret'... i.e. 'Smeagol' from AS (Anglo-Saxon) _smeagan_ 'examine, peer in,' 'Deagol' from AS _deagol_ 'hidden, secret'...But the more the names are looked at, the more they seem to have another dimension. They might...explain the etymologies of 'Cain' and 'Abel' - the first from _cunnian_ 'investigate, find out,' the second from _a_ (intensive prefix) and _behelan_ 'conceal.' As I say, the fascination is considerable." Lin Carter did a three part article ("Notes on Tolkien", XERO #7, 8, & 9) in the second part of which he traced most of Tolkien's names. A great deal of the personal names being found in the Norse EDDAS: nearly all of the dwarves' names being found in a few verses of the VOLSUNGA SAGA. To me the thing that gives Tolkien's work a sense of fascination is the vast sweep of history it encloses, and the way the Quest of the Ring is made to seem an integral part of this long and varied history. In fact, Douglass Parker sees LOTR as "the story of the _end of an age_, an age which the author has gone to a fantastic amount of effort to make specific, to make real. And it is from the varied reactions of races and individuals to this and to the ends of other ages, past and future, that the meaning of the work arises." [page 18] LOTR has many links with the ages of the past, some of them living beings such as Sauron who was the servant of Morgoth in the First Age, Elrond the half-Elven whose "memory reaches back even to the Elder Days" and who has "seen three ages in the west of the world," (FR, p256, HM ed.,p319 Ballantine ed.) And with him, many of the immortal elven kind still walk Middlw-earth @Middle-earth@. Gandalf the wizard was already aged and bent when he entered Middle-earth some two thousand years before the final act of the War of the Ring. He came as a messenger to unite the forces of good. For Gandalf "is forbidden to dominate...in the First and Second Ages of Tolkien's world, the Gods interferred @interfered@ in man's fate and so obscured it; in the Third Ago their emissary is present, but as a helper only." (Micheal @Michael@ Straight) The book dealing with the First Age (and now the Second also) is THE SILMARILLION which is in the process of being written by Tolkien. This book will deal even more than LOTR with "the idea of death and the thought of immortality on earth - Swift's Struldbrugs - (both) equally intolerable. The whole thing will be dominated by three jewels (the Silmarils), symbols of beauty rather than power." (Tolkien quoted by Anthony Curtis, "Hobbits and Heroes" I PALANTIR 1). Tolkien divides his lengthy history into four periods. The First Age begins beyond the scope of any in LOTR and ends with the overthrow of Morgoth and the loss of the Silmarils. The Second Age as chronicled in THE AKALLABETH (meaning The Downfall of Numenor, now to be part of THE SILMARILLION) starts with the settling of the Edain in Numenor near to the Undying Lands of the immortal elves in the far west and ends with Sauron corrupting the Numenors and leading them to conquer the Undying Lands. Then "The Valar laid down their Guardianship and called upon the One, and the world was changed. Numenor was...swallowed in the Sea, and the Undying Lands were removed forever from the Circles of the World." (RK,p317 HM ed., pe92 Ballentine ed.) The Third Age started with the settlement of Gondor and ended with the departure of Elrond and most of the elven kind with the declining of their powers brought on by the destruction of the One Ring. Then began the Fourth Age - that of Man. [page 19] Margaret M. Howes has a nice article in THE TOLKIEN JOURNAL (Vol. III, No.2) on "The Elder Ages and the Later Glaciations of the Pleistocene Epoch" on the configuration of Middle-earth during the various ages. The lands of Middle-earth from the Shire to Lothlorien to Mordor are many and varied. A strong part of the effect of the story rests on the hobbits' progress from their comfortable Shire to the almost absolute perfection and beauty of Lothlorien and from there to the desolation and waste of Mordor. The closer Sam and Frodo approach the mountain walls of Mordor, the more sparse and stunted the vegetation. Within the mountain valleys only twisted and bent thorn bushes cling to existance @existence@. The land of Mordor when they reach it is a blasted and twisted waste of solidified lava and ash. Tolkien took painstaking care with all the details of Middle-earth as he believed that this type of writing was the most difficult as it had to induce in the reader "that state of mind (which) has been called 'willing suspension of disbelief,' But this does not seem to me a good description of what happens. What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful 'sub-creator.' He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is 'true', it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it while you are, as it were, inside." (TREE AND LEAF, p36) Tolkien continues that "anyone inheriting the fantastic device of human language can say the Green sun. Many then can imagine or picture it. But that is not enough...to make a Secondary World inside which the Green Sun will be credible, commanding Secondary Belief will...demand a social skill, a kind of elvish craft. Few attempt such difficult tasks. But when they are attempted, and in any degree accomplished, then we have a rare achievement of art...indeed story telling in its primary and most potent mode." (TREE AND LEAF, p45) Tolkien has succeeded in this aim in LOTR in the opinion of most of his critics. Douglass Parker feels that "Tolkien has made his world a prodigious and, so far as I can judge, unshakable construction of the imagination." C. S. Lewis says that "no imaginary world has been projected which is at once as multifarious and as true to its own inner laws...Here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron; here is a book that will break your heart...good beyond hope." ("Dethronement of Power" TIME AND TIDE Oct, '55) [page 20] The one critic that does unfavorably look upon the Ring volumes, Edmond Wilson, does a thorough hatchet job of it. Even the fall of Mordor is nothing more to him than "the climax to which we have been working up to through exactly 999 large closely printed pages... (and which) proves extremely flat...The kingdom of Sauron 'topples' in a brief and banal earthquake that sets fire to everything and burns it up, and so releases the author from the necessity of telling the reader what exactly was so terrible there." Breathes there a man with soul so dead... Besides critic Wilson hasn't done his homework. He omits the fact that his "fire" is a vulcanic @volcanic@ eruption and that there isn't much in the wastes of Mordor to burn. And as Douglass Parker points out, with the squalidness of the orcs, the spider-like Shelob (incidentally Tolkien denies in EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS: MASTER OF ADVENTURE by Dick Lupoff that the Siths of Apts of the Barsoomian caves were the source of Shelob.) who nearly traps the Ring-bearer in the mountains of Mordor, and the squie-like Balrog who almost destroys Gandalf in the pits of Moria, "Tolkien has surrounded his Dark Lord with such an aura of utter malignity that any presentation, no natter how horrible,would be anti-climatic. For Evil here is and must be unspecified, nearly allegorical." (Douglass Parker) The questions of good and evil and of power in LOTR are quite complex and have aroused a varied amount of comment. Lewis C. Halle views the central theme of the three volumes as lesser, and its onsequence, @consequence@ suffering." (History Through the Mind's eye", SATURDAY REVIEW, Jan.28, '56) Micheal @Michael@ Straight sees the problem as one of "power unmatched by responsibilty @responsibility@ corrupts, and therefore is potentially evil. The power conferred by the Ring is without parallel. Therefore its capacity to work evil is unlimited. In the presence of limited good and corruptible man; what is the responsibility of the ringbearer? Is it to use present evil on behalf of present good and thereby to ensure the continuation of evil? Or is it to deny present gain in an effort to destroy evil itself?" Contrast this viewpoint with that expressed in the Elric of Melnibone, series where "It takes a strong evil to battle a strong evil." (STORMBRINGER, p60) It would be interesting to know if this theme in LOTR influenced Moorcock to look at the other side of the coin. Patrica Spacks in an excellently worked out essay feels that "reference to...two themes - freedom of will and order in the universe, in the operations of fate - are...strongly recurrant @recurrent@...Early in [page 21] _The Fellowship of the Ring_ after Gandalf has told Frodo the dreadful nature of his Ring (it partakes of too much power and brings about the 'fading' of its wearer into final submission to evil), the wizard comments that always after defeat the Shadow takes another shape and grows again. 'I wish it need not have happened in my time.' said Frodo, 'so @So@ do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.' (FR 60)(HM ed.) The necessity for free decision is thus early affirmed; it is to become a central issue of the trilogy (sic)." Towards the end of the Quest, "Sam...realizes how many opportunities they have had of turning back, and understands that heroism, in legend and in fact, consists of freely and repeatedly making the choice of good (TT 321). In his moment of crisis, he knows that destiny has put him in this dilemma, and that his most important responsibilty @responsibility@ is to make up his own mind. (TT 341) At the climax, Frodo weakens and puts on the Ring by the fires of Mount Doom. But Gollum takes the Ring (with the finger in it like Isildur did) and while dancing in triumph, he slips into the Crack of Doom and the Ring is unmade in the fires of its forging. "Dramatically this final twist is quite unnecessary. It prolongs the suspense by barely a page; the dilemma raised by Frodo's failure is immediately resolved. Thematically, however, it is essential. In the presentation of this event, the idea of free will intimately involved with fate receives its most forceful statement...Free choice of good by the individual involves his participation in a broad pattern of Good; individual acts become a part of Fate. Frodo has repeatedly chosen to behave mercifully towards Gollum, even in the face of treachery on the other's part, his merciful acts determine his fate and, because he has by acceptance of his mission come to hold a symbolic position, they also determine the fate of the world he inhabits...(Frodo is) free at the cost of physical maiming, the emblem of his human (or Hobbit) weakness-like Lewis' hero, Ransom, who is in _Perelandra_ successful in physical struggle with the Devil, but emerges from it with an unhealable wound in the heel." (Patrica Spacks, "Ethical Patterns in _The Lord of the Rings_", CRITIQUE, Spr.-Fall '59, I Palantir #3) And like Beren in THE SIMARILLION @SILMARILLION@ who loses his hand in the war against Morgoth (RK p229 HM ed., p281 B. ed.) or Tyr the Norse god who put his hand in the Fenris Wolf's mouth as a pledge of faith while the other gods chained the Wolf. [page 22] There is also a variety of opinion on what Tolkien has accomplished. William Blissett feels that LOTR is a "parable of power for the atomic age." Colin R. Fry feels that Tolkien "has tapped the roots of North European mythology, and made old legend new again and accessible to a much wider public than they were before; and he has also, in doing this, uncovered the roots of European personality." (@"@Tolkien and British Culture" NIEKAS # l3) Douglass Parker gives Tolkien credit for "recreating _Beowulf_ - _Beowulf_ as he understands it and has criticized it so well. And he has done this...because he feels that only in this way can he attain what the author of _Beowulf_ attained, a sense of man's...impermanence, his perishability." Perhaps the best analysis of Tolkien's accomplishments is Marion Zimmer Bradley's. She sees LOTR as symbolic of adolescence and "its function as a bridge between childhood fantasy and adult realism." At the end of the story, Sam - whom MZB sees as the true hero of the story and cites among other things that he was the only character able to freely give up the Ring and in the land of Mordor to boot - Sam "has achieved true maturity; and as the Heroic Age passes, he longs to put down roots into the soil of the Shire and raise a family...(his) heroism and devotion is in curious contrast to the humdrum marriage and like he accepts and desires... The only way to achieve maturity is to leave behind the Third Age with its dreams and desires, its emotions and needs and glories; the only way to remain forever young is to die young." (@"@Men, Halflings, and Hero Worship" FAPA '61, NIEKAS # 16) Most critics agree that Tolkien has created a work of exceptional worth. Anthony Boucher stated after the novel won the International Fantasy Award that it "is one on the major achievements of epic imagination in our lifetimes, and your life is the poorer if you have failed to read it." Arthur C. Clarke says "I have read Professor Tolkien's _The Lord of the Rings_ not once but twice. In the highest and most complimentary sense, this is escapist fiction at its finest, yet at the some time it has profound relevance to our troubled age." (inside blurb, THE HOBBIT, Ballantine ed.) Loren Eiselcy feels that "these are sure to remain Tolkien's life work, and are certainly destined to outlast our time. They stand as a major creative act." Patrica Spacks describes LOTR as "gigantic in effect, unique in conception, his trology (sic) @trilogy@ must assume a central position in the canon of serious supernatural literature...(for) Tolkien removes his fiction from the realm of 'real life' only to be enabled to talk more forcefully about reality. A serious reading of _The Lord of the Rings_ must produce the realization that its issues are profoundly relevant to human problems." [page 23] Marion Zimmer Bradley has, perhaps, the most unbiased summing up of the epic. "The great mass of abundant verse in _The Lord of the Rings_, if detached from the books and analyzed only as poetry. would appear at a level with that of any other scholarly, sensitive amateur with a feeling for words, conscientious about rhyme and metre, imaginative and vivid, but neither artistic or great. "Wilson also calls (Tolkien's) prose on a 'similar level of professorial amateurishness.' We must concede his disinterested accuracy. Dr. Tolkien's prose is often awkward, stilted, pedantic. He comes off poorly when compared with Janes Branch Cabell, Charles Williams, or even Robert Graves. But this ignores one great fact; great prose, or great poetry, does not make a great work of art. Shakespeare was not a superlatively great poet, yet his plays have more power than many more "poetic". Jewelled @Jeweled@ prose, and artistry with words, often hides that the writer has nothing to say. Tolkien has a great deal to say; and he has sufficient command of the English language to say it well, compellingly, truthfully and spell-bindingly. "And this alone will make _The Lord of the Rings_ a great work, and give it lasting place in literature when his critics, and the great prose and poetry they admire, have passed away into the nothingness of changing tastes. Possibly Dr. Tolkien has written THE definitive Quest novel. Certainly he has written a great masterpiece and one which will long endure...to seize on generations of children, adolescents and adults with its pity and terror, its catharsis and consolation." Since the above was written before the Tolkien books became a national craze, it overlooks the point that now Tolkien's poetry has introduced many who otherwise wouldn't touch it to its beauties. And I rather like the fannish craze for setting Tolkien's poems to music, but I have little information on this except for the fact that Marlon Zimmer Bradley has set many of them to music. Douglass Parker faults as do many critics, the characterization in the novel. He holds that "though (LOTR) labors under two almost impossible literary burdens - reams of interpolated bad verse and an utter lack of more than surface characterization - it leads to a preception @perception@, a valuable one, and one which depends greatly on the tremendous amount of sympathy created for its characters. In fine, its success is due, in part, to its shortcomings." How it is possible to have a "tremendous amount of sympathy" for cardboard characters is something Douglass Parker skimmed over very hastily. The characters in LOTR are well enough depicted to gain our interest and yet not overly developed so that they get in [page 24] the way of the story. I feel that the modern emphasis on characterization to the point where novels take place almost in an actionless void is very unhealthy. It is like very carefully fitting on one leg of a stool then trying to sit on it. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the modern school of writers to fall on their backsides. Willian Blissett feels that "the persons of the story are not fully rounded individuals defining themselves through existential choice, but aspects of mankind and of the self manifesting their essence...Only two persons are given rounded and unpredictable characters and it is significant that they both typify types of psychic disintegration." But Blissett overlooks the most developed character in the novel. At least, to me, Middle-earth is the main character. The visible part of Middle-earth's fascinating "character" is the wide and varied array of lands and peoples of her surface, but this character has developed for countless ages and time seems almost to attain substance in some of her dream-wrapped ancient lands. Scattered throughout Middle-earth in song and in legend, in substance and in person are reminders of a great and majestic past stretching back countless years. It is this sense of a vast, almost brooding history that gives Middle-earth such an attraction for me. And we will have a chance to see this character at an earlier stage of her development when Tolkien polishes up the final draft of THE SILMARILLION.