Friday, January 18, 2008

Tolkien and Culture

In the third chapter of fellowship of the ring, Frodo and company first encounter the legendary Elves. I find it interesting that Gildor comments that Hobbits are dull folk, yet he began to take an interest once Frodo was able to speak their language. Could the Elves' perception of Hobbits be due to the strict isolationist society in which they live? It seems as though this first transaction between the two very different cultures and the process by which they relate to one another reflects Tolkien's desire to promote transcultural integration and harmony.

8 comments:

matwood@siue.edu said...

I think that what you are saying is true. I also find the same sentiment when the hobbits are speaking of "big men." They speak of them as if they have no business around where they are. I think that all cultures within "middle earth" in Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring are rather isolated.

Mike Pilato said...

Yes I agree. I think that the two cultures that are the least isolated are men and elves. In the Second Age, they formed an alliance that created a mutual respect and understanding towards one another. Although once Isildur, the last king of Gondor, took the Ring for himself the Elves began to lose faith in men. This uneasy alliance reminds me of the dichotomy between Byzantium and the Latin West in Europe during the middle ages.

Doty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelly Huber said...

Well Gandalf does say that he's the only person who seems to take much interest in hobbits in general. It's possible that the other creatures of Middle Earth simply take them at face value, i.e. fat and smiling child-like creatures who can't possibly have the same mental capacities as them.

Lyndsey Nichols said...

I agree with you all, but do the hobbits actually give the Elves (or anyone for that matter) a chance to prove them wrong. If the hobbits never leave The Shire, they are not giving themselves much of a chance to "live". If my neighbor never left his home, I'd think he was pretty dull too.

Mike Pilato said...

As you will read later on in the trilogy, Hobbits do get the chance to show their worth to the other races.

Heidi Harshman said...

I agree with you all as well. I also think it's interesting that while the elves seem to not take much of an interest in the hobbits at first, the hobbits are very interested in the elves. Sam seems to be at least. When trying to relate this to our society today, and thinking about transcultural situations as suggested, I also wonder, does it seem that some cultures today are more interested in learning about others, such as Sam is eager to learn about the elves? or do you feel most cultures rather keep to themselves, as the elves appear to? Has this changed over the years since Tolkien's writings or is it still a universal attribute to either study other's ways of life, or keep to oneself?

So far throughout the book, it seems as if Tolkien too, feels there are cultural barriers. Do you feel he thinks they should be eliminated, and is somehow putting forth his opinion throughout the book? or is it merely included to keep an interesting story line?

Mike Pilato said...

Well I do think that Tolkien puts forth the idea of cultural pluralism. This I think is emphasized later when the Fellowship forms. At the start you see the outworking of cultural prejudices, but gradually as they go on their journey, they begin to understand one another and the preconceived negative attitudes gradually diminish.