Author Topic: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions  (Read 1024 times)

Offline Optatus

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2018, 09:21:45 PM »
Awkward - Tom Bombadil does "resist" the ring insofar as the ring has no power over him whatever. It's only partly a matter of him having no interest in the ring (and most other things of Arda, seemingly): the other part is that the malice and corruption of Sauron is unable to subordinate Tom in the way that it does, or has the potential to do, for everyone else.

The proof of this is that Tom pops the ring on his finger and, lo and behold, he doesn't disappear. Whether intentionally or simply by virtue of who Tom Bobadil is, he is resistant utterly to the ring's power.

Tom is probably the only one capable of such a feat in Middle Earth. Presumably the Ainur would be similarly resistant, but we know that even the Maiar (Gandalf, literally the "wisest of the Maiar," and Saruman, the chief of the Istari) and the Noldo (Galadriel) are tested and tempted by it, and were they to fail in that initial test they would unquestionably have succumbed to the ring's power. This is no small detail given who and what these three are.

The key issue is that, for those who have a real opportunity to take the ring (I'm not sure I would say that Merry, Legolas, Gimli, etc. were ever truly tested), there seems to be a definitive moment when they have to choose, freely, to give their will over to it or to resist its power. For Galadriel this came at Lothlórien in her meeting with Frodo. For Faramir, this came when he came upon Frodo and Sam at  Henneth Annûn. For Gandalf, this came at Bag End. For Isildur, this came after he vanquished Sauron bodily. Each encountered a pivotal moment where they had to choose, and if they chose wrongly no one could resist the lure of the ring. Again, the only possible exception apart from Tom is the Ainur.

An interesting question might be why some fail this initial testing while other's don't. Why did Saruman fail while Gandalf resisted? Both were Maiar and Istari. Why did Isildur fail while Aragorn resisted? Isildur was of the Elendili of Númenor, and so encountered and rejected the worship of Melkor that took his people, while for Aragorn, Númenor and that struggle were distant in his family tree. Why did Faramir resist the ring while Boromir succumbed to it (though later repented)? Both were the sons of the Steward of Gondor, raised in the same house and of a similar background, though different character.

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.

From Letter 131:

Quote
There was another weakness: if the One Ring was actually unmade, annihilated, then its power would be dissolved, Sauron's own being would be diminished to vanishing point, and he would be reduced to a shadow, a mere memory of malicious will. But that he never contemplated nor feared. The Ring was unbreakable by any smithcraft less than his own. It was indissoluble in any fire, save the undying subterranean fire where it was made – and that was unapproachable, in Mordor. Also so great was the Ring's power of lust, that anyone who used it became mastered by it; it was beyond the strength of any will (even his own) to injure it, cast it away, or neglect it. So he thought. It was in any case on his finger.

The heat of the fires or Orodruin isn't mentioned in this case, but what is mentioned is that Orodruin is the place of the rings forging and the fastness of Sauron. I certainly don't hold that if a sufficient heat were conjured, the ring could be destroyed just about anywhere. Orodruin is significant for other reasons.
 
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #16 on: December 11, 2018, 09:04:45 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?
I haven't finished reading The Lord of the Rings yet (I'm still on the first book), but, knowing Tolkien, the idea is probably poetic/mythic/mystical rather than superstitious.

Here are some Christian parallels:
God: "Dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return."
St. Thomas: God is man's first cause and last end.

This same idea--that things must return to their source--also shows up in pre-Christian and anti-Christian philosophers, e.g.
Heraclitus: All things come from fire, and all things will decompose back into fire.
Plotinus: The world emanates from the One, and the world yearns to return to the One.

But as for the idea of literally returning to a thing's physical place of origin in order to bring about that thing's destruction (and/or perfection)... I have no idea. It does seem fitting though. Another parallel: It is said that Golgotha was both the location of Adam's grave (signifying the fall) and the location of the crucifixion (signifying the redemption).


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.
Well, without original sin there would be no near occasion of sin. So I'd say, maybe both? It also seems to signify the carrying of the cross.
But I would note, Tolkien was writing "myth" rather than "allegory". I'm not sure what this means exactly, but I do know that Tolkien's parallels are less clear-cut than typical allegory. It's not like Narnia where each particular thing symbolizes something else with a sort of one-to-one mapping... it's more as if the whole story is saturated in Christian symbolism. Maybe in some ways the bearing of the ring signifies original sin/concupiscence, in some ways it signifies near occasion of sin, and in other ways it signifies other things.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2018, 01:42:57 PM by Daniel »
 
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Offline awkwardcustomer

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #17 on: December 11, 2018, 09:47:45 AM »
Awkward - Tom Bombadil does "resist" the ring insofar as the ring has no power over him whatever. It's only partly a matter of him having no interest in the ring (and most other things of Arda, seemingly): the other part is that the malice and corruption of Sauron is unable to subordinate Tom in the way that it does, or has the potential to do, for everyone else.

The proof of this is that Tom pops the ring on his finger and, lo and behold, he doesn't disappear. Whether intentionally or simply by virtue of who Tom Bobadil is, he is resistant utterly to the ring's power.

Tom is probably the only one capable of such a feat in Middle Earth. Presumably the Ainur would be similarly resistant, but we know that even the Maiar (Gandalf, literally the "wisest of the Maiar," and Saruman, the chief of the Istari) and the Noldo (Galadriel) are tested and tempted by it, and were they to fail in that initial test they would unquestionably have succumbed to the ring's power. This is no small detail given who and what these three are.

The key issue is that, for those who have a real opportunity to take the ring (I'm not sure I would say that Merry, Legolas, Gimli, etc. were ever truly tested), there seems to be a definitive moment when they have to choose, freely, to give their will over to it or to resist its power. For Galadriel this came at Lothlórien in her meeting with Frodo. For Faramir, this came when he came upon Frodo and Sam at  Henneth Annûn. For Gandalf, this came at Bag End. For Isildur, this came after he vanquished Sauron bodily. Each encountered a pivotal moment where they had to choose, and if they chose wrongly no one could resist the lure of the ring. Again, the only possible exception apart from Tom is the Ainur.

An interesting question might be why some fail this initial testing while other's don't. Why did Saruman fail while Gandalf resisted? Both were Maiar and Istari. Why did Isildur fail while Aragorn resisted? Isildur was of the Elendili of Númenor, and so encountered and rejected the worship of Melkor that took his people, while for Aragorn, Númenor and that struggle were distant in his family tree. Why did Faramir resist the ring while Boromir succumbed to it (though later repented)? Both were the sons of the Steward of Gondor, raised in the same house and of a similar background, though different character.

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.

From Letter 131:

Quote
There was another weakness: if the One Ring was actually unmade, annihilated, then its power would be dissolved, Sauron's own being would be diminished to vanishing point, and he would be reduced to a shadow, a mere memory of malicious will. But that he never contemplated nor feared. The Ring was unbreakable by any smithcraft less than his own. It was indissoluble in any fire, save the undying subterranean fire where it was made – and that was unapproachable, in Mordor. Also so great was the Ring's power of lust, that anyone who used it became mastered by it; it was beyond the strength of any will (even his own) to injure it, cast it away, or neglect it. So he thought. It was in any case on his finger.

The heat of the fires or Orodruin isn't mentioned in this case, but what is mentioned is that Orodruin is the place of the rings forging and the fastness of Sauron. I certainly don't hold that if a sufficient heat were conjured, the ring could be destroyed just about anywhere. Orodruin is significant for other reasons.

Thanks for this insightful post and fair enough about Tom Bombadil.  My only comment is that while the ring had no power over him whatsoever, as you say, Tom Bombadil had no power over the ring insofar as he even lacked the awareness of the need to destroy it or the impetus to ensure someone else destroyed it.  He seems to me to be the embodiment of the obliviousness of nature to matters of good and evil.  To be honest, I find his lack of action slightly irritating. At any rate, he isn't a player in the drama.  His actions, or lack of them are of little consequence to the outcome.

The key question is, of course, why does the ring affect some more than others.  There does seem to be a key, pivotal moment for some characters in which they have to make the choice between accepting and refusing the ring.  And for Merry, Pippin, Legolas and Gimli etc, there is no such moment, this is true.  But they had opportunity, and time, to hatch a plan to seize the ring and this course of action doesn't even occur to them.

It is a Ring of Power, and that power, plus the ability to wield it, seduces some but not others. As you point out, the interesting question is why do some fall for it while others don't. The answer could be - because they want power.
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Offline Optatus

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #18 on: December 13, 2018, 05:26:41 PM »
Awkward - this I will certainly agree with, and this is why I can't accept that Tom is Eru incarnate as the popular theory goes. Tolkien was too Catholic and too intelligent to make Eru such an indifferent figure. It's true that Eru typically acted through the Ainur or "providentially" in that his intervention was not especially obvious (Númenor being the obvious exception), but I can't imagine Tom being Eru and simply not showing the slightest concern for the fate of the ring outside of his assistance with the barrow-wights.

Also, I too find it somewhat irritating. I think most people do, which is why Tom is such an enigma for so many people.
 

Offline awkwardcustomer

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #19 on: December 14, 2018, 06:44:12 AM »
Awkward - this I will certainly agree with, and this is why I can't accept that Tom is Eru incarnate as the popular theory goes. Tolkien was too Catholic and too intelligent to make Eru such an indifferent figure. It's true that Eru typically acted through the Ainur or "providentially" in that his intervention was not especially obvious (Númenor being the obvious exception), but I can't imagine Tom being Eru and simply not showing the slightest concern for the fate of the ring outside of his assistance with the barrow-wights.

Also, I too find it somewhat irritating. I think most people do, which is why Tom is such an enigma for so many people.

It's been suggested that when Tolkein began to write LOTR, he hadn't a clear idea as to how the tale would progress and that he lingered over Tom Bambadil, and took rather a long time to get the Hobbits out of the Shire and into action, because he needed time to work out the plot.
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.

And what rough beast, it's hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
WB Yeats, 'The Second Coming'.
 

Offline Philip G.

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #20 on: January 01, 2019, 01:33:33 PM »
I have a question.  In the second book of LOTR, does it mention that orcs eat human flesh?  I recall it implying something like that by the fact that I think the men after a battle gathered their slain comrades and burnt them in a pile so that orcs would not eat them.  Is that correct, or am I imagining this?  Also, Merry and/or Pippen were offered meat by the orcs who abducted them, and they turned it down because they did not know the meats source.  Also, do all orcs speak language comprehend-able by man?
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Offline Jacob

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #21 on: January 01, 2019, 04:13:58 PM »
I have a question.  In the second book of LOTR, does it mention that orcs eat human flesh?  I recall it implying something like that by the fact that I think the men after a battle gathered their slain comrades and burnt them in a pile so that orcs would not eat them.  Is that correct, or am I imagining this?

It does mention orcs eating human flesh.

From Wikipedia:
Quote
Tolkien indicates that Orcs are "always hungry".[25] Orcs eat all manner of flesh, including men and horses, and there are frequent hints of cannibalism among Orcs. Grishnákh, leader of the Mordor Orcs, accuses Saruman's Uruks of eating Orc-flesh, which they angrily deny.[23] In Cirith Ungol, Gorbag suggests that Frodo (recently poisoned by Shelob) should "go in the pot"; Shagrat indicates that Gorbag could be "for the pot" for making such a suggestion.[26] Shagrat threatens to eat a disobedient orc, and after killing Gorbag he licks his blood from the blade.[27]

Also, do all orcs speak language comprehend-able by man?

No.

From Wikipedia:
Quote
The Orcs had no language of their own, merely a pidgin of many various languages. However, individual tribes developed dialects that differed so widely that Westron, often with a crude accent, was used as a common language. A few words of the Black Speech are common among Orcs: ghâsh ("fire"), sharkû ("old man", leading to Saruman's nickname "Sharkey"), snaga ("slave"), and Uruk ("orc"). Another Orkish word is tark ("Man of Gondor") from Westron and ultimately Quenya tarkil.
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Offline John Lamb

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #22 on: January 01, 2019, 11:10:29 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?
I haven't finished reading The Lord of the Rings yet (I'm still on the first book), but, knowing Tolkien, the idea is probably poetic/mythic/mystical rather than superstitious.

Here are some Christian parallels:
God: "Dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return."
St. Thomas: God is man's first cause and last end.

This same idea--that things must return to their source--also shows up in pre-Christian and anti-Christian philosophers, e.g.
Heraclitus: All things come from fire, and all things will decompose back into fire.
Plotinus: The world emanates from the One, and the world yearns to return to the One.

But as for the idea of literally returning to a thing's physical place of origin in order to bring about that thing's destruction (and/or perfection)... I have no idea. It does seem fitting though. Another parallel: It is said that Golgotha was both the location of Adam's grave (signifying the fall) and the location of the crucifixion (signifying the redemption).

In the ancient Chinese philosophy called Taoism (named after the "Tao", lit. "The Way", like the Greek "Logos", the eternal unchanging principle which pervades all things) this is referred to literally as "the Return".

Quote
ATTAIN to utmost Emptiness.
Cling single-heartedly to interior peace.
While all things are stirring together,
I only contemplate the Return.
For flourishing as they do,
Each of them will return to its root.
To return to the root is to find peace.
To find peace is to fulfill one's destiny.
To fulfill one's destiny is to be constant.
To know the Constant is called Insight.

Quote
KNOW the masculine,
Keep to the feminine,
And be the Brook of the World.
To be the Brook of the World is
To move constantly in the path of Virtue
Without swerving from it,
And to return again to infancy.

Know the white,
Keep to the black,
And be the Pattern of the World.
To be the Pattern of the World is
To move constantly in the path of Virtue
Without erring a single step,
And to return again to the Infinite.

Know the glorious,
Keep to the lowly,
And be the Fountain of the World.
To be the Fountain of the World is
To live the abundant life of Virtue,
And to return again to Primal Simplicity.

When Primal Simplicity diversifies,
It becomes useful vessels,
Which, in the hands of the Sage, become officers.
Hence, "a great tailor does little cutting."


Quote
THE movement of the Tao consists in Returning.
The use of the Tao consists in softness.

All things under heaven are born of the corporeal:
The corporeal is born of the Incorporeal.

Quote
IN the old days, those who were well versed in the
practice of the Tao did not try to enlighten the
people, but rather to keep them in the state of simplicity.
For, why are the people hard to govern? Because they
are too clever! Therefore, he who governs his state
with cleverness is its malefactor; but he who governs
his state without resorting to cleverness is its
benefactor. To know these principles is to possess a
rule and a measure. To keep the rule and the measure
constantly in your mind is what we call Mystical
Virtue. Deep and far-reaching is Mystical Virtue! It
leads all things to return, till they come back to Great
Harmony!

In fact, Tom Bombadil very closely mirrors the ideal of the Taoist sage in some respects. I think what Tolkien was getting at with Tom Bombadil was the original, prelapsarian man created in paradise (the unfallen Adam), who was at one with nature and was innocent and naive as regards good & evil for he had not eaten of the "fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil". Taoist philosophy also, in its vague way, is trying to get man to a pre-fallen state, to his original "inborn nature" (as they put it); of course, we're speaking here of philosophers around the same time as Plato & Aristotle, so they were not gifted with the divine revelation given to the Jews, and did not know the cause of evil coming into the world & the corruption of human nature (the Fall). Tom Bombadil pays no heed to the ring or the hobbits because he has no interest in either the Fall or the Redemption, being a completely un-fallen being himself. He represents nature in its original innocence, like flowers & butterflies that have never been corrupted by the death which Adam brought into the world. He is totally indifferent to the drama of mankind and human destiny – fall & redemption – since it's entirely passed him by. Tom Bombadil is the man or creature of the mythical "golden age" that pagan myth (including Chinese) always refers to, which Moses described more accurately as the original Paradise created by God. The ring has no power over him because the ring is a creature of the fallen world, which Tom Bombadil does not belong to. The ring has no power over Sam for an entirely different reason, namely humility. It's not that the ring couldn't corrupt Sam, it's that his humility is greater than its corrupting power; so Sam is practicing Christian virtue. Tom Bombadil's virtue, on the other hand, is completely natural, there is nothing specifically Christian or supernatural about it (although he has superpowers which are more correctly described as preternatural).

The metaphysical idea of the "Return" – that all things ultimately return to what Taoists call the Source or the Root – is not superstitious, but a sound principle. The Bible does refer to it whenever it talks about man being dust & ashes returning to the earth (as regards his body / material existence), and whenever it speaks about man returning to God (which refers to his spiritual existence). The Steinbeck book referred to where the man returns to the house of his birth in order to die, is a very poetic and moving symbol of this true metaphysical principle that men are bound eventually to return to their Maker and First Cause.

Quote from: Ecclesiastes
Who knoweth if the spirit of the children of Adam ascend upward, and if the spirit of the beasts descend downward?

St. Thomas Aquinas talks about the "Return" whenever he follows Aristotle in calling God the Final Cause of the universe and all things, i.e. all things tend ultimately towards God, which is to say that all things are, in various ways, returning to Him. Our Lord calls Himself in the Apocalypse, "the Alpha and the Omega", i.e. the Beginning and the End.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2019, 11:19:15 PM by John Lamb »
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Offline Philip G.

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #23 on: January 02, 2019, 12:58:25 AM »
John Lamb - I don't think the language of the Gospel is "return" to God.  I think it is "turn" to God.  There is a difference. 
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Offline clau clau

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #24 on: May 16, 2019, 05:10:03 AM »
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Offline red solo cup

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Re: Tolkien LOTR Thoughts/Questions
« Reply #25 on: May 16, 2019, 06:28:20 AM »
In LOTR I see the story of Veland the Smith who had the ability to forge a sword that could not be broken. He also worked in gold and silver among which were numerous magical rings. Often considered malicious, he was called by some King of the Elves.
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