Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tolkien's thoughts

I discussed with the professors after class about something that I heard on the radio when the movies first came out. Apparently a lot of people were analyzing the religious aspects of the movies much like we are with the books in class. The DJ mentioned that he had read an interview with Tolkien who once commented on similar critiques of the books much like they did with the movies. All Tolkien had said that it was "It's just a story I wrote, read it and enjoy it." The professors and I thought it would be an interesting discussion for everybody. So what are everyone's thoughts on that? Do you think people are analyzing too much or is Tolkien just avoiding unwanted attention?

12 comments:

twright said...

Sometimes I feel that we are analyzing the book too much, but as educated humans that is what we do. There are some great points that are brought up in class and interesting conversations. I really enjoy listening to the professors and there knowledge of the history that Tolkien has integrated in the book. I think that in analyzing a book is to also analyze the author, where he or she is from and their background. That is really interesting to me, trying to figure out where he was coming from when he wrote it and why. Listing to the professors makes me think that he was probably just trying to ovoid the attention. He seemed like the type to put a lot of undertones in his stories and to make them catch the eye of those with similar backgrounds. He uses so many Old English words and they all seem to hold bits of hidden information about the person that only someone that knew what they were and meant would see. So I guess to answer your question, no I don’t think that we are analyzing the book or Tolkien too much.

Rocky said...

If anything, I would like to see us actually analyze the book more. There are so many things going on at the same time in book, it seems impossible to cover it all in just an hour and 15 min.

becky said...

I believe it is quite possible that Tolkein just wants people to enjoy the work he has created. By searching and digging it is possible to create points that are not there, whereas enjoying the piece allows his obvious vast knowledge to simply enter one's mind. Inevitably, he used factors of his knowledge (like Old English) simply because it is easy- yes, it definitely can add to the story some, but it is not imperative.

Erica W said...

I think that Tolkien does want people just to enjoy his book, but the fact that he uses the motifs of good and evil and a lot of symbolism it stands that people would try to find deeper meaning in the story line than what is on the surface. I think all wrtiers write to some extent to impose and or expose some injustices in our world and the hope to change it even if only in their book's reality.

alyssa riederer said...

I think that people should just read the books without over analyzing it. When people do that, all kinds of interpretations can be found and that can create major disagreements among people. It probably wouldn't happen much for a book like this but it has been done to others. Tolkien wanted his readers to just enjoy the books and I think we can all do that without looking for a deeper meaning. Some of the aspects he puts in the book just help us to relate to it.

mmannin said...

The great thing about analyzing fiction is the fact that it is all based on opinion. Some may think that something means one thing while other see something else. By analyzing the trilogy, it seems that we are just estimating what we think Tolkien may have been thinking. We dont know how Tolkien felt or what he wanted by writing the trilogy, all we can do is guess from his writing and listen to a variety of ideas, and think of things that we have never before thought of.

Heidi Harshman said...

I agree with the previous post. It seems kind of impossible at times to analyze fictional stories. However, I think that Tolkien includes just enough 'history' of older stories or tales, and through his word usage and commonalities among these stories, it makes us wonder why he writes as he writes.

Doty said...

It is never impossible to analyze any piece of writing, fictional or non. Analyzing literature is not necessarily about discovering all the hidden truths in a text. It is, as mmannin said, "based on opinions." However, to disagree with mmannin, it is not "all based on opinions." There are fields of literary analysis that study things like integrated language, such as Tolkien's use of Old English words in the Lord of the Rings, which I'm sure Dr. Simms would be glad to talk to you about. You could also read any number of works in reader-response literary theory and criticism that provide a reader's personal interpretation of a text. But back to the point: every text can be analyzed in some way. If I open up a dictionary and choose 500 random words without any structured method of selection whatsoever and then type those words out and publish that text, it would be total nonsense. There would not be complete sentences, rational ideas, or intended meaning. Upon reading the 500 words, however, a literary analyst might publish a response claiming that my work makes a statement about the futility of laboriously organizing a work of fiction for the purpose of claiming knowledge about truths in the universe. Whether or not this is a reasonable interpretation is a moot point. The point is that any text can be analyzed.

Mike Pilato said...

Aside from the historical and linguistic elements that exist in Lord of the Rings, in essence these series of books comprise just an extraordinarily great tale. A tale that we all can relate to on emotional, moral, and cultural levels. Tolkien himself said that his works were not an allegory, but applicable. No matter who you are or what your cultural background, a person is prompted to empathize with the characters because they face challenges similar to that of the human experience. It is quite clear that Tolkien was influenced by his experience in World War I and his Roman Catholic faith. However, I think Tolkien took his i-posteriori (knowledge from experience), and placed it in a plural, multi-cultural context; i.e. the cultural prejudice and ambiguity among the different races in the Fellowship. The theme of hope and having faith when faced with seemingly hopeless odds is evocative of his religious affiliation. The concept of triumph out of suffering and tragedy, (i.e. Gandalf's fall and return; Frodo's constant tumultuous resistance to evil) is easily comparable to Christ's suffering and subsequent ressurection. There is also a recurring theme of the number three, possibly in reference to the Holy Trinity: Three rings given to the Elves, the Fellowship is reduced to three; Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli; Frodo, Sam, and Smeagol become a team on their own journey; Merry, Pippin, and Treebeard have their story apart from the others; Three wizards are mentioned in the books: Gandalf, Radagast, and Saruman; there are three evil leaders: Sauron, Saruman, and the Witch-king of Angmar; three Elven kingdoms: Lothlorien, Mirkwood, and Rivendell, and not to mention..........that the story is a trilogy!

ashley F. said...

Knowing some of Tolkien background and reading Lord of the Rings,I would have to say that Tolkien knew exactly what he was writting in the books. Tolkien purpose I believe was to spark some individuals interest. He didnt want his books to be forgotten and he knew that by writting parts with old english words, religious symbolism; and a book about individuals who are fighting for good v. evil, individuals would continue to analyze the Lord of the Rings books.

Elizabeth Killingbeck said...

I think that Lord of the Rings (and the rest of Tolkien's LotR-related work) is simply the result of a past-time from a highly intelligent individual whose interests happen to be highly specialized, resulting in an intricately written work. From class discussion we know that Tolkien wrote his fantasy with the infusion of Anglo-Saxon lore and myth, while sprinkling in his knowledge of Old English and such, to create this story that has some meaning and history beyond itself, which I feel like we are intended to explore. By its inherent intricacies, Tolkien leaves the work open to research and analysis, but at the same time it is simply a fantastic story to be appreciated for that simplicity (much like the faerie stories that Tokien wrote about which had such dual identities).
Furthermore, anyone who writes a piece of literature cannot help but write from experience, either intentionally or unintentionally (which I think Mike pilato refers to). So to me, I can understand if personal experiences of Tolkien's have made it in the book, or maybe there is some underlying message. Like Doty said, all literature can be analyzed, and like Mmannin said, all analyzing is based on opinion...and to me this means is that we can look at this work and come to the conclusion that maybe there is some racism in middle earth, and perhaps there is some signifigance of east vs. west, but that isn't to say the realities of Middle Earth were the complete personal opinions of J.R.R. Tokien, but rather a reflection of how our world existed during his time to be perceived through this other lens (an idea of recovery, which Tolkien was very familiar with). To reiterate something that may have already been said about over-analysis:our analysis and conclusions of Tokien's world, are in the end, simply our own opinions.

amstrope said...

I think he just had a really good imagination and wanted to write it all day. He wanted to create his own world and he did a great job at it. But people break these books down way more then are needed to in my opinion.