Author Topic: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions  (Read 723 times)

Online Philip G.

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Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« on: December 10, 2018, 11:02:39 AM »
I was recently watching Dr. Taylor Marshall's videos about Tolkien, and I have been thinking about the themes of LOTR. 

The plan of the company to destroy the ring in the fires from which it was forged is a familiar strategy.  And, I am hoping that perhaps others can give examples of where it is used, so that we may source the founding of this idea.  Here are some examples I thought of.  I saw in an old believer russian orthodoxy documentary, and it said that when old believers want to get divorced, they have to go back to the exact location where they got married, and get divorced at that same spot.  I don't know how true that is, but the old believer in the documentary definitely said that.  And, that is similar to how the LOTR must destroy the ring.  The other occasion I could think of was from a Steinbeck book, where an old poor man returns to the farm house he was born in, even though a new family was living there.  He says he has returned to die there, because he was born here.  He then steals their old dying horse that he comments should be put down, and him and the horse ride up the mountain to die. 

The idea is basically that things must be ended in the place where they began.  Does anyone know where this idea comes from?  It is definitely a superstitious belief.  Can anyone think of any other examples?

And, what is stewardship of the ring supposed to represent?  Is stewardship supposed to represent the carrying or original sin?  Or, is it supposed to represent near occasion of sin?  I ask this because if you wear the ring, it represents the committing of sin, so carrying it would represent it seems to me near occasion of sin.
For the stone shall cry out of the wall; and the timber that is between the joints of the building, shall answer.  Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and prepareth a city by iniquity. - Habacuc 2,11-12
 
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Offline Jacob

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2018, 11:26:20 AM »
The idea is basically that things must be ended in the place where they began.  Does anyone know where this idea comes from?  It is definitely a superstitious belief.  Can anyone think of any other examples?

Personally, that theme comes across as something people read into the text.  I've read LotR lots of times and I've never gotten the impression that anyone actually thought the Ring had to go back to the Mountain of Fire principally because that was where it was made.  They were looking for a heat source capable of melting it.  Mount Doom was the only volcano they knew of.  I bet if they had known of another one that was outside Mordor, they would have considered going there instead of going into the lion's den.
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Offline Maximilian

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2018, 12:40:42 PM »

 a Steinbeck book, where an old poor man returns to the farm house he was born in, even though a new family was living there.  He says he has returned to die there, because he was born here. 

Sounds very similar to "The Trip to Bountiful."

Trailer:


Full movie:
 

Online Philip G.

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2018, 01:33:01 PM »
The idea is basically that things must be ended in the place where they began.  Does anyone know where this idea comes from?  It is definitely a superstitious belief.  Can anyone think of any other examples?

Personally, that theme comes across as something people read into the text.  I've read LotR lots of times and I've never gotten the impression that anyone actually thought the Ring had to go back to the Mountain of Fire principally because that was where it was made.  They were looking for a heat source capable of melting it.  Mount Doom was the only volcano they knew of.  I bet if they had known of another one that was outside Mordor, they would have considered going there instead of going into the lion's den.

I think you are in the minority. 
For the stone shall cry out of the wall; and the timber that is between the joints of the building, shall answer.  Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and prepareth a city by iniquity. - Habacuc 2,11-12
 

Offline Optatus

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2018, 01:44:40 PM »
Personally, that theme comes across as something people read into the text.  I've read LotR lots of times and I've never gotten the impression that anyone actually thought the Ring had to go back to the Mountain of Fire principally because that was where it was made.  They were looking for a heat source capable of melting it.  Mount Doom was the only volcano they knew of.  I bet if they had known of another one that was outside Mordor, they would have considered going there instead of going into the lion's den.

I'm not sure about that Jacob. The ring is completely resistant to heat, not some heat. At the Council of Elrond it's said that the ring must be destroyed at Orodruin, so there is something peculiar about the place of its origin and I don't think it's merely that the volcano was particularly hot. My guess is that Mount Doom was the heart of Mordor and the dwelling place of Sauron. Since Sauron's fate was bound to the ring, it only makes sense that the ring had to be destroyed at the seat of Sauron's power.

Philip - I think we need to be careful with analysing Tolkien's legendarium. Especially over-analysing. Sometimes Tolkien really had no idea why he did what he did and he spent much of his life revising and rewriting things, including key figures like Galadriel who he was revisiting shortly before he died. I don't think that the bearing of the ring is an allegory for anything, really. It's just a story about a simple little creature accomplishing the heroic and the impossible. I don't think it needs to be more than that.
 
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Offline awkwardcustomer

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2018, 02:59:45 PM »
The plan of the company to destroy the ring in the fires from which it was forged is a familiar strategy.  And, I am hoping that perhaps others can give examples of where it is used, so that we may source the founding of this idea …...   

……. The idea is basically that things must be ended in the place where they began.  Does anyone know where this idea comes from?  It is definitely a superstitious belief.  Can anyone think of any other examples?

The ring has to be taken to Mount Doom, where it was forged, because that's the only place in Middle Earth where the fire is strong enough.  It's as simple as that.

Quote
And, what is stewardship of the ring supposed to represent?  Is stewardship supposed to represent the carrying or original sin?  Or, is it supposed to represent near occasion of sin?  I ask this because if you wear the ring, it represents the committing of sin, so carrying it would represent it seems to me near occasion of sin.

Stewardship of the ring doesn't represent anything in particular.  It's how the rings affects those who carry it, or wish to carry it, that's significant. Bilbo finds the ring, Frodo inherits the ring, Gollum murders his friend for the ring. Some have no interest in the ring. Others refuse to take it.  Boromir longs for the ring from the moment he sees it.

According to Tom Shippey in 'JRR Tolkein: Author of the Century', Tolkein had two lines from the 'Our Father' in mind when he developed the concept of the ring - Lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.  Thus the ring acts as a sort of psychic amplifier of an individual's inner weaknesses and desires, and at the same time is an external force with a will of its own that seeks to overcome the individual from without.

Although no-one can ultimately resist the ring if they carry it, some cannot resist it even if they don't carry it.  And although even the most well-intentioned and relutant carriers of the ring with ultimately succumb, those who actively seek the ring will succumb first.

And formerly the heretics were manifest; but now the Church is filled with heretics in disguise.   
St Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 15, para 9.
 
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Offline Optatus

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2018, 03:35:31 PM »

Although no-one can ultimately resist the ring if they carry it, some cannot resist it even if they don't carry it. 

Ahem.

 
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Online Philip G.

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2018, 04:16:23 PM »

Although no-one can ultimately resist the ring if they carry it, some cannot resist it even if they don't carry it. 

Ahem.


You are correct sir.  Tom Bombadil resists the ring.   
For the stone shall cry out of the wall; and the timber that is between the joints of the building, shall answer.  Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and prepareth a city by iniquity. - Habacuc 2,11-12
 

Offline Kreuzritter

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2018, 04:21:35 PM »
The beauty of the symbolic truths of myth is that they may find their way into stories even without any conscious understanding of the storyteller. Myth and folktales are replete with examples of things which can only be destroyed by a special power: sometimes it is a prophesied person, other times a divine grace bestowed upon a person directly or to him through an object of magical origins, and these must themselves be created or undone under certain conditions, often of place and time - and this is something we encounter in magical texts and grimoires too, in which items must be forged and consecrated at certain times and places. We also see themes of return, as with Excalibur and the Lady of the Lake in the Arthurian cycle.  Obviously they point to certain truths of the Faith involving the Messiah, the Sacraments, the nature of grace, etc., and just as obviously those who don’t understand what it means to see the world as being intrinsically symbolic like the ancients did will call this “superstition”. Oh, and in TLOTR we also have the theme of evil having to be destroyed at its source.
 

Online Philip G.

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2018, 04:35:30 PM »
Personally, that theme comes across as something people read into the text.  I've read LotR lots of times and I've never gotten the impression that anyone actually thought the Ring had to go back to the Mountain of Fire principally because that was where it was made.  They were looking for a heat source capable of melting it.  Mount Doom was the only volcano they knew of.  I bet if they had known of another one that was outside Mordor, they would have considered going there instead of going into the lion's den.

I'm not sure about that Jacob. The ring is completely resistant to heat, not some heat. At the Council of Elrond it's said that the ring must be destroyed at Orodruin, so there is something peculiar about the place of its origin and I don't think it's merely that the volcano was particularly hot. My guess is that Mount Doom was the heart of Mordor and the dwelling place of Sauron. Since Sauron's fate was bound to the ring, it only makes sense that the ring had to be destroyed at the seat of Sauron's power.

Philip - I think we need to be careful with analysing Tolkien's legendarium. Especially over-analysing. Sometimes Tolkien really had no idea why he did what he did and he spent much of his life revising and rewriting things, including key figures like Galadriel who he was revisiting shortly before he died. I don't think that the bearing of the ring is an allegory for anything, really. It's just a story about a simple little creature accomplishing the heroic and the impossible. I don't think it needs to be more than that.

Taylor Marshall and his guest were already casting their voting that Tolkien should be canonized.  They may no longer believe in the devils advocate, but I cannot say the same about myself.  I intend to be careful.  But, "literal bastards"(the name T. Marshall and co. gave fantasy skeptics) can sometimes have very potent imagination, contrary to popular belief. 

As for the allegory of stewardship of the ring, I think that there is material to support both original sin and near occasion as a meaning.   
For the stone shall cry out of the wall; and the timber that is between the joints of the building, shall answer.  Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and prepareth a city by iniquity. - Habacuc 2,11-12
 
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Offline Optatus

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2018, 05:09:27 PM »
As for the allegory of stewardship of the ring, I think that there is material to support both original sin and near occasion as a meaning.   

I tend to agree with Kreuzritter; if it's there, it's probably sub-conscious. A number of things probably went into it, not least of which being the Nibelungenlied, but I couldn't accept that the inspiration is explicitly this thing or that. Remember, Tolkien started by writing the opening lines of the Hobbit on the back of an exam paper for seemingly no reason and he remained largely incapable of explaining why he did so or where it came from. He then spent decades building upon this and the Fall of Gondolin, refining it, expanding upon it, fashioning these scattered stories and ideas into a coherent mythology, an endeavor that still hasn't ended and which was carried on by his grandson, Christopher.

The dwarves are good example of the way Tolkien's ideas evolved and how inspiration was drawn from numerous sources, with one source of inspiration falling out of favour in place of another as time went on. They started out evil in Tolkien's mind, creatures and servants of Melkor much like orcs. They then turned into somewhat whimsical little fellows right out of the pages of the Voluspa in the Hobbit. Later they became the children of Aulë with their own "creation myth" distinct from the Children of Ilúvatar with obvious Semitic characteristics, especially in their language, and were good - and the least corruptible by Melkor/Sauron between the three races. Tolkien then had to create an explanation for the Norse names in the Hobbit and reconcile this with dwarves like Azaghâl and Gamil Zirak, hence the idea of "outer names" and the frankly superstitious importance the dwarves placed on their actual names.

All of this is to say that things, as far as Tolkien are concerned, are usually complicated and multi-faceted.
 
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Offline awkwardcustomer

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2018, 05:52:01 PM »

Although no-one can ultimately resist the ring if they carry it, some cannot resist it even if they don't carry it. 

Ahem.


You are correct sir.  Tom Bombadil resists the ring.   

Boromir. 
And formerly the heretics were manifest; but now the Church is filled with heretics in disguise.   
St Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 15, para 9.
 

Offline Kreuzritter

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2018, 06:24:18 PM »

Although no-one can ultimately resist the ring if they carry it, some cannot resist it even if they don't carry it. 

Ahem.


You are correct sir.  Tom Bombadil resists the ring.   

Boromir.

Samwise.
 

Offline awkwardcustomer

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2018, 08:27:27 PM »

Although no-one can ultimately resist the ring if they carry it, some cannot resist it even if they don't carry it. 

Ahem.


You are correct sir.  Tom Bombadil resists the ring.   

Boromir.

Samwise.

But Tom Bombadil doesn't resist the ring. He has no interest whatsoever in the ring and therefore has nothing to resist because the ring can't get to him.

Samwise similarly has no interest in the ring, and only carries it temporarily because he mistakenly believes that Frodo is dead and wants to prevent the orcs getting it.  When he finds Frodo again, he wobbles slightly as the ring starts to work on him.  But he overcomes this and gives it back to Frodo.

Boromir is the LOTR character I was referring to.  He doesn't have to carry the ring, or even touch it, to be overcome by it.  As soon as he sees it at the Council of Elrond, he wants it.  Then there's his father Denethor, who also covets the ring.  There's the suggestion that Denethor sent Boromir to the Council, rather than Faramir, precisely for the purpose of bringing the ring to Minas Tirith. 

Faramir also seems to have no interest in the ring, and neither do Merry, Pippin, Legolas, Gimli, the Riders of Rohan ….

It's those who seek the ring who tend to be destroyed by it - Gollum, Saruman.  Having reached Mount Doom, Frodo is overwhelmed by the power of the ring but Providence intervenes in the shape of Gollum and Frodo is saved because he never sought the ring, tried to give it away twice, and was willing to sacrifice himself to destroy it.  Boromir was also saved because he came to his senses and still possessed of his honour, gave his life to save the hobbits.

so yes, there are those who, when it comes to the power of the ring;

Quote
..... cannot resist it even if they don't carry it.

Boromir and Denethor.  It's just as well neither of them got their hands on it. 


And formerly the heretics were manifest; but now the Church is filled with heretics in disguise.   
St Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 15, para 9.
 

Offline Jacob

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2018, 08:48:07 PM »
I'm not sure about that Jacob. The ring is completely resistant to heat, not some heat. At the Council of Elrond it's said that the ring must be destroyed at Orodruin, so there is something peculiar about the place of its origin and I don't think it's merely that the volcano was particularly hot. My guess is that Mount Doom was the heart of Mordor and the dwelling place of Sauron. Since Sauron's fate was bound to the ring, it only makes sense that the ring had to be destroyed at the seat of Sauron's power.

Having just reread "Shadow of the Past" and "The Council of Elrond", there is no mention of the Ring having to go back to Mount Doom solely because it is the place of the Ring's forging.  In "Shadow of the Past", Gandalf talks about what is needed to destroy it.  He mentions dragon fire, but surmises even the greatest dragons of the Elder Days did not produce the heat needed; the Ring would have to go to Mount Doom.
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