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PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 3:20 am 
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When I think of Gandalf I think of both Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White. But really Gandalf the Grey died, and was given extra power and wisdom by Eru and remade into a new far more powerful Gandalf, Gandalf the White. So thinking of just Gandalf the Grey here [Manwë conspiracy theories aside] how powerful was he?

He was a maiar so of course powerful, but as an embodied physical being capable of pain, weariness, fear and death [letters 156] he was vulnerable to standard injury and death. Sarumon was killed by a knife, Gandalf injured in the battle of the 5 armies and killed by the balrog. In fact it seems he might have only beaten the balrog due to his ring Narya the ring of fire. When he faced the balrog in the long fight where both would die he said

"I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.
—The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring,Book II, Chapter 5: "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm"

And yet even with the power of the ring, he was killed. Even Gandalf the white with added power and wisdom from Eru [God] was unsure of his ability vs the witch king while Glorfindel faced him. Gandalf the grey did not see Sauroman for who he had becomes, he failed 1v1 vs Sauroman. Gandalf debates with Aragorn on what path to take the fellowship and he gives way to Aragorn saying “if you bring a ranger with you, it is well to pay attention to him, especially if the ranger is Aragorn.” despite the fact we are told in the Valaquenta “Wisest of the maiar was Olórin.” In the hobbit the party went to Rivnedall and it was Elrond [not Gandalf] whos wisdom discerned the map, found new letters, and knew the history of the swords Glamdring and Orcrist carried by Gandalf. Neither and Gandalfs plans always correct. He advised them to take the elf road near mirkwood but it was now impassable.

“Even the good plans of the wise like Gandalfs and of good friends like Elrond go astray sometimes.”
-The Hobbit chapter 4

But most of all his mission to save the free peoples from the power of Sauron failed. The Istari and Gandalf failed. He was killed. .

The 'wizards', as such, had failed
-Letters 156

So Eru steeped in to save Middle earth through Gandalf the White

“So Gandalf sacrificed himself, was accepted, and enhanced, and returned. 'Yes, that was the name. I was Gandalf.' Of course he remains similar in personality and idiosyncrasy, but both his wisdom and power are much greater. When he speaks he commands attention; the old Gandalf could not have dealt so with Théoden, nor with Saruman.”
-Letters 156

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-J.R.R Tolkien

“I am in fact a Hobbit (in all but size). I like gardens, trees and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking; I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field); have a very simple sense of humour (which even my appreciative critics find tiresome); I go to bed late and get up late.”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“Tolkien was a lifelong enemy of big government in every form, not just the harsher forms we find in soviet communism, German Nazism, or Italian fascism, but also as it manifested itself in British democratic socialism and the mongol state capitalism in other parts of the west.”
-Jonathan Witt and Jay W The Hobbit Party: The vision of freedom that Tolkien got and the west forgot


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 2:30 pm 
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You should be wary of looking to The Hobbit for examples of the nature of "Gandalf the Grey". When The Hobbit was written, there were no Istari, there was not even a formal concept of the Maiar, though there was a concept of other being of the same nature of the Valar. It is unclear that Gandalf -- or Bladorthin, as he was originally named -- was conceived as originally conceived as being anything other than what he seemed to be, an old man with magical powers, in the mold of Merlin and other wizards of ancient legend. Like the Ring itself, Gandalf role and power morphed into something very different, and much larger, as the sequel to The Hobbit brought the story into a culmination of Tolkien's already existing mythology.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 10:17 pm 
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Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
You should be wary of looking to The Hobbit for examples of the nature of "Gandalf the Grey". When The Hobbit was written, there were no Istari, there was not even a formal concept of the Maiar, though there was a concept of other being of the same nature of the Valar. It is unclear that Gandalf -- or Bladorthin, as he was originally named -- was conceived as originally conceived as being anything other than what he seemed to be, an old man with magical powers, in the mold of Merlin and other wizards of ancient legend. Like the Ring itself, Gandalf role and power morphed into something very different, and much larger, as the sequel to The Hobbit brought the story into a culmination of Tolkien's already existing mythology.



Thanks for the advice. But wouldn't you agree Tolkien accepted the hobbit as part of his overall history? I would also say that Tolkien never thought himself an inventor but a discoverer, so while the hobbit did not give all the information on Gandalf, it did give accurate information. He did not see any "contradictions" but just needing more information to be given.

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“I am a Christian, that fact can be deduced from my stories.”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“I am in fact a Hobbit (in all but size). I like gardens, trees and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking; I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field); have a very simple sense of humour (which even my appreciative critics find tiresome); I go to bed late and get up late.”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“Tolkien was a lifelong enemy of big government in every form, not just the harsher forms we find in soviet communism, German Nazism, or Italian fascism, but also as it manifested itself in British democratic socialism and the mongol state capitalism in other parts of the west.”
-Jonathan Witt and Jay W The Hobbit Party: The vision of freedom that Tolkien got and the west forgot


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 12:20 am 
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But wouldn't you agree Tolkien accepted the hobbit as part of his overall history?


That's an interesting question, and one worthy of more thought. My short, initial answer would be a qualified yes. But I don't have time right now to give a more thoughtful answer, so I'll leave it at that and come back later.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 4:39 am 
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Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
Quote:
But wouldn't you agree Tolkien accepted the hobbit as part of his overall history?


That's an interesting question, and one worthy of more thought. My short, initial answer would be a qualified yes. But I don't have time right now to give a more thoughtful answer, so I'll leave it at that and come back later.

Would be interested to read your thoughts on this. The Hobbit does have some things that don't quite fit with everything else, not all of which got fully incorporated by LotR. But I like how some oddities and loose ends like stone giants and Beorn make the legendarium bigger. The bumbling dwarves and silly Rivendell elves are kind of odd, but even there it's kind of nice in a way to have that lighthearted self-effacing side in a corner of the mythology. Surprisingly the more hostile Mirkwood elves actually fit in pretty well!


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:09 am 
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I've always thought of "The Hobbit" as being reflective of Bilbo's lack of sophistication. He wrote his account from his perspective as a parochial hobbit with a grandiose self importance as THE Baggins of Bag End. Thus, he sees the Dwarves as bumbling and arrogant, while he's the only one with common sense. Ethereal Elves come across as fanciful, Elven captors as aggressive. I'm one of the few who would love to have seen Tolkien's rewrite completed. Sure, it wouldn't have been "The Hobbit", but it would have been a wonderful exercise.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 10:18 pm 
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Alatar wrote:
I've always thought of "The Hobbit" as being reflective of Bilbo's lack of sophistication. He wrote his account from his perspective as a parochial hobbit with a grandiose self importance as THE Baggins of Bag End. Thus, he sees the Dwarves as bumbling and arrogant, while he's the only one with common sense. Ethereal Elves come across as fanciful, Elven captors as aggressive. I'm one of the few who would love to have seen Tolkien's rewrite completed. Sure, it wouldn't have been "The Hobbit", but it would have been a wonderful exercise.



Agreed. I wish I could have read what he had before he discarded it. I love the hobbit as part of ME history. I could do without some of the childish aspects of course.

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“I am a Christian, that fact can be deduced from my stories.”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“I am in fact a Hobbit (in all but size). I like gardens, trees and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking; I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field); have a very simple sense of humour (which even my appreciative critics find tiresome); I go to bed late and get up late.”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“Tolkien was a lifelong enemy of big government in every form, not just the harsher forms we find in soviet communism, German Nazism, or Italian fascism, but also as it manifested itself in British democratic socialism and the mongol state capitalism in other parts of the west.”
-Jonathan Witt and Jay W The Hobbit Party: The vision of freedom that Tolkien got and the west forgot


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 3:03 pm 
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The 1960 rewrite of The Hobbit is published - as far as it went before it was abandoned - in John Rateliff's The History of The Hobbit, which I strongly urge reading if you are interested in The Hobbit's place in Tolkien's legendarium. However, he did not get far enough to address the issues that make The Hobbit's contradictory with the rest of the legendarium.

To go back to your question about whether Tolkien accepted The Hobbit as part of his overall history, it is very clear that when he wrote it he did not mean it to be part of his mythology, though it reflected aspects of the mythology. In a letter to the publisher about illustrations for the American edition, he wrote "I have some 'pictures' in my drawer, but though they represent scenes from the mythology on the outskirts of which the Hobbit had his adventures, they do not really illustrate his story." Later he wrote, "Mr Baggins began as a comic tale among conventional and inconsistent Grimm's fairy-tale dwarves, and got drawn into the edge of it." Still later he wrote, "My tale is not consciously based on any other book — save one, and that is unpublished: the 'Silmarillion', a history of the Elves, to which frequent allusion is made." On another occasion he said that he preferred his unpublished mythology to the The Hobbit, implying that the latter, while influenced by the former, was not part of it. However, when he started writing the sequel to the The Hobbit he began to "discover" (to use your word) that it was part of the same world and history. But he only partly went back and retrofitted the story to fit in that world. He did rewrite the Riddles chapter to make it more consistent with the Ring in LOTR (although he did not actually agree to include that rewrite in the new edition; he sent it to the publisher as a suggestion along with some other minor correction and the publisher went ahead and included it without Tolkien's ok). But the use of the Ring by Bilbo is clearly inconsistent with the way it is described in LOTR. And as I stated before, Gandalf is very much a different character than the angelic being that he would become. One clearcut contradiction between The Hobbit and the rest of the legendarium is the story of how the Elves and Dwarves became estranged. In the Silmarillion tradition, it goes back to the conflict between Thingol and the Dwarves over the Nauglamír. In The Hobbit, a similar story is told, but the Elf in question is the Woodland King. As Rateliff notes, when Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, the Woodland King was either meant to be Thingol himself or a character closely based on him. But when he wrote the sequel, he clarified that the Woodland King was Thranduil, a completely different character. Thus, two completely different and incompatible stories are told about the conflict between the two races. And there are other contradictions, as well.

Something that I wrote in my Tolkien Studies essay, "Law and Arda" I think illustrates the primary difference between The Hobbit and the rest of the Legendarium, including The Lord of the Rings, so I'll repeat it here:

Quote:
In their Introduction to Tolkien On Fairy-stories (their expanded edition of Tolkien’s famous essay) Verlyn Flieger and Douglas A. Anderson describe how Tolkien applied the lessons that he learned in writing the essay to improve his craft, particularly as seen in the advances from The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings. They state, “All of these improvements can be subsumed under the heading of the most potent phrase in Tolkien’s essay, “the inner consistency of reality.” The Lord of the Rings has it; The Hobbit has it intermittently, but not consistently” (OFS 18). This evolution can be seen in the presentation of legal issues in the two works (and also the movement within The Lord of the Rings itself from the earlier portions which are much more akin to The Hobbit, to the more gritty later portions). In The Hobbit the legal issues closely parallel the real world, whereas in The Lord of the Rings they are more firmly rooted to the secondary world, thus better serving the ‘inner consistency of reality.’

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 3:37 pm 
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Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
One clearcut contradiction between The Hobbit and the rest of the legendarium is the story of how the Elves and Dwarves became estranged. In the Silmarillion tradition, it goes back to the conflict between Thingol and the Dwarves over the Nauglamír. In The Hobbit, a similar story is told, but the Elf in question is the Woodland King. As Rateliff notes, when Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, the Woodland King was either meant to be Thingol himself or a character closely based on him. But when he wrote the sequel, he clarified that the Woodland King was Thranduil, a completely different character. Thus, two completely different and incompatible stories are told about the conflict between the two races.


One thing I liked about PJ's Hobbit was the way he conflated both versions in the movie.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 6:43 pm 
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Would you care to elaborate, Al?

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 12:48 am 
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Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
The 1960 rewrite of The Hobbit is published - as far as it went before it was abandoned - in John Rateliff's The History of The Hobbit, which I strongly urge reading if you are interested in The Hobbit's place in Tolkien's legendarium. However, he did not get far enough to address the issues that make The Hobbit's contradictory with the rest of the legendarium.

To go back to your question about whether Tolkien accepted The Hobbit as part of his overall history, it is very clear that when he wrote it he did not mean it to be part of his mythology, though it reflected aspects of the mythology. In a letter to the publisher about illustrations for the American edition, he wrote "I have some 'pictures' in my drawer, but though they represent scenes from the mythology on the outskirts of which the Hobbit had his adventures, they do not really illustrate his story." Later he wrote, "Mr Baggins began as a comic tale among conventional and inconsistent Grimm's fairy-tale dwarves, and got drawn into the edge of it." Still later he wrote, "My tale is not consciously based on any other book — save one, and that is unpublished: the 'Silmarillion', a history of the Elves, to which frequent allusion is made." On another occasion he said that he preferred his unpublished mythology to the The Hobbit, implying that the latter, while influenced by the former, was not part of it. However, when he started writing the sequel to the The Hobbit he began to "discover" (to use your word) that it was part of the same world and history. But he only partly went back and retrofitted the story to fit in that world. He did rewrite the Riddles chapter to make it more consistent with the Ring in LOTR (although he did not actually agree to include that rewrite in the new edition; he sent it to the publisher as a suggestion along with some other minor correction and the publisher went ahead and included it without Tolkien's ok). But the use of the Ring by Bilbo is clearly inconsistent with the way it is described in LOTR. And as I stated before, Gandalf is very much a different character than the angelic being that he would become. One clearcut contradiction between The Hobbit and the rest of the legendarium is the story of how the Elves and Dwarves became estranged. In the Silmarillion tradition, it goes back to the conflict between Thingol and the Dwarves over the Nauglamír. In The Hobbit, a similar story is told, but the Elf in question is the Woodland King. As Rateliff notes, when Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, the Woodland King was either meant to be Thingol himself or a character closely based on him. But when he wrote the sequel, he clarified that the Woodland King was Thranduil, a completely different character. Thus, two completely different and incompatible stories are told about the conflict between the two races. And there are other contradictions, as well.

Something that I wrote in my Tolkien Studies essay, "Law and Arda" I think illustrates the primary difference between The Hobbit and the rest of the Legendarium, including The Lord of the Rings, so I'll repeat it here:

Quote:
In their Introduction to Tolkien On Fairy-stories (their expanded edition of Tolkien’s famous essay) Verlyn Flieger and Douglas A. Anderson describe how Tolkien applied the lessons that he learned in writing the essay to improve his craft, particularly as seen in the advances from The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings. They state, “All of these improvements can be subsumed under the heading of the most potent phrase in Tolkien’s essay, “the inner consistency of reality.” The Lord of the Rings has it; The Hobbit has it intermittently, but not consistently” (OFS 18). This evolution can be seen in the presentation of legal issues in the two works (and also the movement within The Lord of the Rings itself from the earlier portions which are much more akin to The Hobbit, to the more gritty later portions). In The Hobbit the legal issues closely parallel the real world, whereas in The Lord of the Rings they are more firmly rooted to the secondary world, thus better serving the ‘inner consistency of reality.’



“His inability to spare me more than a few minutes...he says he has to clear up an apparent contradiction in a passage of lord of the rings that has been pointed out in a letter by a reader, the matter requires his urgent consideration...talking about his book not as a work of fiction but as a chronicle of actual events; he seems to see himself not as an author who has made a slight error that must know be corrected or exspalined away, but as a historian who must cast light on an obscurity in a historical document.”
-J.R.R Tolkien a Biography by Humphrey Carpenter


“I met a lot of things on the way that astonished me. Tom Bombadil I knew already; but I had never been to Bree. Strider sitting in the comer at the inn was a shock, and I had no more idea who he was than had Frodo. The Mines of Moria had been a mere name; and of Lothlórien no word had reached my mortal ears till I came there. Far away I knew there were the Horse-lords on the confines of an ancient Kingdom of Men, but Fangorn Forest was an unforeseen adventure. I had never heard of the House of Eorl nor of the Stewards of Gondor. Most disquieting of all, Saruman had never been revealed to me, and I was as mystified as Frodo at Gandalf's failure to appear on September 22”
-Letters 163


I had very little particular, conscious, intellectual, intention in mind at any point. Take the Ents, for instance. I did not consciously invent them at all...) almost like reading some one else's work. And I like Ents now because they do not seem to have anything to do with me.
-Letters 163


Thanks for the post and knowledge. I try my best to come from Tolkien perspective on his writings rather than a scholar looking at a typical authors writings. So I think right off we might be missing each other. So I see his writings not as evolving inventions, but recordings of an actual history [mythological of course]. Tolkien said “I had the sense of recording what was already there somewhere, not inventing” and “I ceased to invent, I wait till I seem to know what really happened, or till it writes itself.” When talking to the inklings he said, “A new character has come on the screen, I did not invent him, I did not want him, though I like him.” Tolkien wrote to a publisher on August 31, 1939 saying, “Following along and getting quit out of hand.... progress towards quite unforeseen goals.” When asked a question about LOTR, he would answer something like, “I don't know, I will try to find out.” He was not an inventor but a discoverer.


If we take that view as I do, this discover did not write the hobbit but discovered it as part of the historic past of ME weather he was aware at the time or not. To him it belonged in its history. The letters of Tolkien are full of him resolving seeming contradictions between his writings or even within the same writing and I think he was brilliant at it. In letters 214 he said of supposed contradictions “Facts that may appear in my record, I believe, in no case due to errors, but omissions, and incompleteness of information.” letters 214 shows the depth and level he would go to to resolve small contradictions It is to bad we no longer have him to ask such questions. The fact that he rewrote the Hobbit to "fit" LOTR/Sillmarillion shows to me he counted as part of his history. However his letters as well show this to be true as does the HOME IMO. The Sillmarillion was in many ways separate stories loosely connected into one mythology that one could find various "patterns" "inconsistencies" and such as well as the LOTR. I am not saying that the hobbit was not in some ways an offshoot that was eventually brought into that history but that he reorganized it [as the discoverer] as part of ME history regardless if what was his original intention [Tom Bombadil?].

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit, eventually I thought I’d better find out what hobbits were like. But that’s only the beginning
- J.R.R Tolkien


That he wrote LOTR more of a squeal to the Sil rather than the hobbit, yet it clearly relied on and assumed the hobbit for history, once again shows IMO he reorganized it as part of ME history.


“It [LOTR] is not really a sequel to the hobbit, but to the sillmarillion”
-J.R.R Tolkien letters 124



And as you said, he even used [not to the extent of LOTR] some of the Sillmarillion as it stood as a background for the hobbit. And he used the Hobbit and Sillmarillion as background for the LOTR.


“”In all that time [from the start of the sillmarillion in 1917 to Tolkien s death] the silmarillion....underwent relatively little radical change it became long ago a fixed tradition, and background to later writings.”
-Christopher Tolkien Forward to the Sillmarillion



"The Hobbit was originally quite unconnected, though it inevitably got drawn in to the circumference of the greater construction; and in the event modified it.....Since The Hobbit was a success, a sequel was called for; and the remote Elvish Legends were turned down. A publisher's reader said they were too full of the kind of Celtic beauty that maddened Anglo-Saxons in a large dose. Very likely quite right. Anyway I myself saw the value of Hobbits...A lot of labour was naturally involved, since I had to make a linkage with The Hobbit; but still more with the background mythology. That had to be re-written as well.....That was arrived at in one of the earliest chapters still surviving (Book I, 2). It is really given, and present in germ, from the beginning, though I had no conscious notion of what the Necromancer stood for (except ever-recurrent evil) in The Hobbit, nor of his connexion with the Ring. But if you wanted to go on from the end of The Hobbit I think the ring would be your inevitable choice as the link. If then you wanted a large tale, the Ring would at once acquire a capital letter; and the Dark Lord would immediately appear. As he did, unasked, on the hearth at Bag End as soon as I came to that point. So the essential Quest started at once"
-Letters 163


Contradictions


As for your contradictions These would have been great questions for Tolkien to solve. As a christian apologist I have enjoyed debating and resolving dozens to hundreds of supposed contradictions [that on the surface really seem it- usually I must rely on scholars] in the Bible. But as Tolkien did with those in his writings, he resolved them by bringing in new information ,clarifying etc I dont pretend to be him or myself to have the knowledge of ME to do so, but I just wanted to make the point contradictions are usually solvable with more knowledge.


You said Gandalf the grey was a very different character, but in what way? Gandalf the white was vastly different than the grey, yet I dont think that is a contradiction. Gandalf in the hobbit is in different circumstances. I am sure if we read Olórin vs Gandalf we might be able to force some contradictions, Olórin scarred, Gandalf brave vs balrog, witch king, mouth of sauron etc But maybe you could give a specific example for me. Could you also be more specific with Bilbo and the ring as well? as Tolkien said Bilbo and frodo, and most hobbits were the best at resisting the power of the ring like Tom B because they did not wish power and control for themselves. I am sorry to ask once more but could you quote the sections of the hobbit on the history of the elves and dwarves. Perhaps it was referring to different groups of dwarves and elves. Maybe the Hobbit a more recent separation of the woodland elves or Mirkwood and the local dwarves of erebor? Also to count his unpublished sillmarillion that he was not working on vs his published hobbit, I think gets it backwards. Tolkien was a perfectionist in his writings, nothing hit the press unless revised, reconsidered and then finally published. Given that I think it safe to assume if Tolkien thought it a contradiction, he would have edited his yet to be published Sillmarillion.


“Whole thing comes out of the wash quite different to any preliminary sketch”
-Letters of J.R.R Tolkien

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“I am a Christian, that fact can be deduced from my stories.”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“I am in fact a Hobbit (in all but size). I like gardens, trees and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking; I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field); have a very simple sense of humour (which even my appreciative critics find tiresome); I go to bed late and get up late.”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“Tolkien was a lifelong enemy of big government in every form, not just the harsher forms we find in soviet communism, German Nazism, or Italian fascism, but also as it manifested itself in British democratic socialism and the mongol state capitalism in other parts of the west.”
-Jonathan Witt and Jay W The Hobbit Party: The vision of freedom that Tolkien got and the west forgot


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 2:33 pm 
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On the contradiction between the elves and dwarves of course without the text I cant say anything for sure but I was just reading a at the council of Elrond Gandalf says "If all the grievances that stand between elves and dwarves are to be brought up here, we may as well abandon the council." I think that supports what I had said, these very well could be two separate but similar accounts over the span of many generations of fighting between the two. The hobbit local and recent, the sillmarillion major and the first.

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“I am a Christian, that fact can be deduced from my stories.”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“I am in fact a Hobbit (in all but size). I like gardens, trees and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking; I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field); have a very simple sense of humour (which even my appreciative critics find tiresome); I go to bed late and get up late.”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“Tolkien was a lifelong enemy of big government in every form, not just the harsher forms we find in soviet communism, German Nazism, or Italian fascism, but also as it manifested itself in British democratic socialism and the mongol state capitalism in other parts of the west.”
-Jonathan Witt and Jay W The Hobbit Party: The vision of freedom that Tolkien got and the west forgot


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 5:03 pm 
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I am more sympathetic to your point of view than you perhaps think, my dear Tolkien RJJ. I agree that Tolkien saw himself more of a discoverer than an inventor and I very much believe that is large reason why his writings are so compelling, and the quotes that you cite from his letters are definitely worthwhile. But I think there is much more to it. As I wrote over at TORN when you quoted there what I wrote here, "Tolkien's creation is so vast that there is no way that it could be consistent, or even should be. Most mythologies were created by many different artists over a very long period of time, and of course there are going to be inconsistencies between them. Tolkien managed to create a similar body of mythology all by himself. It follows that it would contain the same kind of inconsistencies." Moreover, Tolkien himself was first and foremost a scholar, and his greatest influences were his knowledge about language (and his resulting desire to create his own languages), and even more his knowledge and understanding of old literature and mythology. I'm curious to know whether you have read Tolkien's essays, "On Fairy-stories" and "The Monsters and the Critics". If not, I strongly urge you to do so if you want to understand Tolkien's view about his own work.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2019 2:31 am 
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Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
I am more sympathetic to your point of view than you perhaps think, my dear Tolkien RJJ. I agree that Tolkien saw himself more of a discoverer than an inventor and I very much believe that is large reason why his writings are so compelling, and the quotes that you cite from his letters are definitely worthwhile. But I think there is much more to it. As I wrote over at TORN when you quoted there what I wrote here, "Tolkien's creation is so vast that there is no way that it could be consistent, or even should be. Most mythologies were created by many different artists over a very long period of time, and of course there are going to be inconsistencies between them. Tolkien managed to create a similar body of mythology all by himself. It follows that it would contain the same kind of inconsistencies." Moreover, Tolkien himself was first and foremost a scholar, and his greatest influences were his knowledge about language (and his resulting desire to create his own languages), and even more his knowledge and understanding of old literature and mythology. I'm curious to know whether you have read Tolkien's essays, "On Fairy-stories" and "The Monsters and the Critics". If not, I strongly urge you to do so if you want to understand Tolkien's view about his own work.


Thanks for the recommendation I have not read those sources myself but have read others quoting various sections. They shall go on my to read- Tolkien reading list. I can perfectly see why one would see contradictions in his writings even within the same books. But as I said I dont take a scholars critic view but what I see as Tolkien's understanding. With this view there is in fact no actual contradictions, just apparent problems that need to be resolved [see letters of Tolkien]. Just because Tolkien made a vast body of work does not IMO have to make us conclude there must be contradictions. I think Tolkien was careful to make a consistent mythology and that is part of his reluctance to publish. And if we take his view, “Facts that may appear in my record, I believe, in no case due to errors, but omissions, and incompleteness of information.”

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“I am in fact a Hobbit (in all but size). I like gardens, trees and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking; I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field); have a very simple sense of humour (which even my appreciative critics find tiresome); I go to bed late and get up late.”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“Tolkien was a lifelong enemy of big government in every form, not just the harsher forms we find in soviet communism, German Nazism, or Italian fascism, but also as it manifested itself in British democratic socialism and the mongol state capitalism in other parts of the west.”
-Jonathan Witt and Jay W The Hobbit Party: The vision of freedom that Tolkien got and the west forgot


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2019 5:16 am 
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As Tolkien stated in Letter 160 to Rayner Unwin: "I am not now at all sure that the tendency to treat the whole thing as a kind of vast game is really good – cert. not for me, who find that kind of thing only too fatally attractive."

You have, unfortunately, taken a few quotes from Tolkien and convinced yourself that the game is real. Yes, Tolkien wanted to make his subcreation as real as possible, to make his "Secondary World credible, commanding Secondary Belief," which did in fact "require labour and thought," and "a special skill, a kind of elvish craft," to selectively quote from his famous statement in "On Fairy-stories." he well knew that he was the "transcendent Sub-creator in this little world."(Letter 180.) As he adds in that same letter, "I am old enough (alas!) to take a dispassionate and scientific, properly so-called, interest in these matters, and cite myself simply because I am interested in mythological 'invention', and the mystery of literary creation (or sub-creation as I have elsewhere called it) and I am the most readily available corpus vile for experiment or observation."

His sub-creation is greater than any other that I have ever encountered. It does him a disservice to disregard the great labour and thought that he put into it, not to mention the special skill, the "Elvish craft" that it required.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 2:36 am 
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Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
As Tolkien stated in Letter 160 to Rayner Unwin: "I am not now at all sure that the tendency to treat the whole thing as a kind of vast game is really good – cert. not for me, who find that kind of thing only too fatally attractive."

You have, unfortunately, taken a few quotes from Tolkien and convinced yourself that the game is real. Yes, Tolkien wanted to make his subcreation as real as possible, to make his "Secondary World credible, commanding Secondary Belief," which did in fact "require labour and thought," and "a special skill, a kind of elvish craft," to selectively quote from his famous statement in "On Fairy-stories." he well knew that he was the "transcendent Sub-creator in this little world."(Letter 180.) As he adds in that same letter, "I am old enough (alas!) to take a dispassionate and scientific, properly so-called, interest in these matters, and cite myself simply because I am interested in mythological 'invention', and the mystery of literary creation (or sub-creation as I have elsewhere called it) and I am the most readily available corpus vile for experiment or observation."

His sub-creation is greater than any other that I have ever encountered. It does him a disservice to disregard the great labour and thought that he put into it, not to mention the special skill, the "Elvish craft" that it required.


I am familiar with the letter and I think what Tolkien was saying is that what he sees as a "game" [his deep lore interests he also said this of his language inventions] is all too fatally attractive, he loves this kind of stuff. I dont think anyone who has read his letters could deny this as the truth. I apologize if i have indicated in any way that i thought his writings were "real" of course they are not. I am simply saying that i take the approach to his writings that he did [as far as i can tell from reading him]. Neither do I think this view is built on a few random quotes but based on his lifetime work, what he said, and who he was. He was no normal writer.


I was just re-reading Carpenters biography on Tolkien and in the chapter "enter mr baggins" he says of Tolkiens views on the hobbit. He started it as an independent work [as many he wrote were at this time poems etc] for his own amusement. But as he wrote it various elements from the sillmarillion kept creeping into the hobbit. A few examples given hsitory of the dwarves, the necromancer, references to beren and Lúthien and soon Tolkien found that the hobbit was in a area of the same earth as the sillmarillion events. Tolkien said it was "the world into witch Mr Baggins strayed." and in a time period clearly after the events of the sillmarillion, the third age. He very soon accepted it as part of later events to the sillmarillion. I said early in this thread that i think we might just talk past one another and i think that is kind of what we have. I think both of us are looking at separate sides of the same coin so we "see" what supports our side of the coin. You can see discrepancies between his works and view him as a normal author and come to legitimate conclusions. I come from what I believe was his view of a constant mythology and "historical" and thus "true" [not in actual truth history] so these contradictions are only supposed and due to lack of information misunderstanding etc.


Thanks for your knowledge and great website. It is good to see fellow Tolkien lovers.

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“I am a Christian, that fact can be deduced from my stories.”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“I am in fact a Hobbit (in all but size). I like gardens, trees and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking; I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field); have a very simple sense of humour (which even my appreciative critics find tiresome); I go to bed late and get up late.”
-J.R.R Tolkien

“Tolkien was a lifelong enemy of big government in every form, not just the harsher forms we find in soviet communism, German Nazism, or Italian fascism, but also as it manifested itself in British democratic socialism and the mongol state capitalism in other parts of the west.”
-Jonathan Witt and Jay W The Hobbit Party: The vision of freedom that Tolkien got and the west forgot


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 3:43 am 
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Not commenting, but reading the discussion avidly.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 4:12 am 
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Quote:
You can see discrepancies between his works and view him as a normal author


This made me smile. :) Obviously, I don't view Tolkien as a "normal author".

I'll come back later with a more detailed response.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 4:24 pm 
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I was thinking about this last night, and I was reminded of what the concert promoter Bill Graham used to say about the Grateful Dead: "They're not the best at what they do; there the only ones who do what they do!" The more I thought about it, the more I realized how apt the comparison was. The Dead combined a host of different influences - blues, folk, jazz, R&B, Gospel, rock, etc. - to do something that had never been done before, and developed an almost mystical following among their fans (including me!). Since their time numerous other bands have followed in their footsteps and attempted to do something similar, but none have matched what they did, or ever will. Similarly, Tolkien combined a host of different influences - Greek, Celtic and Norse mythology, Old English tales such as Beowulf, fairy tales by writers such as George McDonald and William Morris, Arthurian legend, his deep love of language and most of all his abiding Christian faith - to create something unlike anything that had ever been seen before or since, that developed an almost mythical following among his fans (including me!). Numerous authors since his time have followed in his footsteps and attempted to do something similar, but none have matched what he did, or ever will.

As I said earlier, I don't think our views are as different as you seem to think. I love the "Game" that Tolkien described in the letter I cited above, dangerous though he and I both think that it can be. I think Tolkien's achievement is unparalleled in the history of literature. But that doesn't mean that he was perfect, or that he should not be subject to analysis or criticism. Indeed, the contradictions and faults in his vast creation are part of make it so amazing. As I wrote in my recent Mythlore piece analyzing Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange through the prism of Tolkien's essay on Fairy-stories, " Tolkien’s own 'Green Sun' was nothing less than creating a semi-complete fictional universe from the creation of physical world through to the dawn of modern times that parallels old world mythological traditions complete with contradictory concepts and philosophical and moral quandaries … ."

Acknowledging the existence of those contradictory concepts and philosophical and moral quandaries does not lessen the appreciation of Tolkien's achievement, it enhances it. Tolkien's work is so vast and so meaningful, that it is worth analyzing in great detail. I don't know if you have had any opportunity to read any of Verlyn Flieger's work (I can't recommend her highly enough), but there are two essays in particular that I think you would greatly appreciate it. On is called "Tolkien and the idea of the Book" (published in The Lord of the Rings, 1954-2004: Scholarship in Honor of Richard E. Blackwelder, ed. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, and also included in her great book Green Suns and Faerie in which she examines Tolkien’s “intentional, interconnected efforts to bridge the fictive world of the story and the outside, real world, to connect inside with outside and fantasy with actuality through the idea of the book.” Specifically, the Red Book of Westmarch, from which both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were supposed to have been taken. I really think you would appreciate it. The other is called "The Jewels, the Stone, the Ring and the Making of Meaning"* (which appears in her most recent book There Would Always Be a Fairy Tale and also in Tolkien in the New Century: Essays in Honor of Tom Shippey. This essay looks at the primary artifacts in The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings - the Silmarils, the Arkenstone, and the One Ring, and analyzing the different roles that each play in the different works, that help tie them altogether.

Looking at Tolkien's work in this kind of critical fashion (critical not in the sense of being negative, but in the sense of looking at very closely and thinking about very deeply) does not lessen its impact. On the contrary, it greatly enhances it. Tolkien's work is large enough and great enough that it can easily sustain that kind of close scrutiny.

I very much thank you for giving me the opportunity to help try to refine my thoughts about all of this!


* As a complete aside, I was shocked to my bones when Verlyn first delivered this paper at a Mythopoeic Society conference that I happened to be attending, to haver her be talking about a point that the great Tom Shippey made, and then add "Douglas Kane went a little further … " and proceeded to cite something that I had written in Arda Reconstructed. One of the biggest (and most pleasant) surprises in my life. I had no idea at the time that she had even read my work, let alone felt it worth citing.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 4:36 pm 
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What a great moment, Voronwë!

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