Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

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Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Eldorion on Mon Feb 14, 2011 3:17 am

This is based on a topic that Odo made on the old THM, but I thought it'd be nice to re-start the discussion. You can read the version on PT, if you like. Smile

Odo suggests that the tragedy of Tolkien's literary career was how he turned his back on The Hobbit and its 'childish' nature and focused instead on writing the more serious and dark Silmarillion, not to mention LOTR. The Hobbit wasn't the only children's fantasy Tolkien wrote, he also wrote a number of other shorter tales (recently collected as "Tales from the Perilous Realm"), and while I've only read bits and pieces of them I've heard they're quite good. Only The Hobbit really worked its way into the legendarium, however.

I'm curious as to what people think about the contrast between Tolkien's different styles. Is the contrast a significant one, and if so, which do you prefer and why? Or is it overstated, just two different approaches to telling the same kinds of stories?

Also, there is a quote from C.S. Lewis that I posted in the old thread, but that I find relevant to the subject. Cool

C.S. Lewis wrote:When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

Hey, while we're at it, do people find The Hobbit to be a work more in the style of Narnia than LOTR? Very Happy

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by odo banks on Mon Feb 14, 2011 9:48 am

Hey, while we're at it, do people find The Hobbit to be a work more in the style of Narnia than LOTR?

No, not really.

I'm curious as to what people think about the contrast between Tolkien's different styles. Is the contrast a significant one, and if so, which do you prefer and why? Or is it overstated, just two different approaches to telling the same kinds of stories?

Not sure if this all that germane to your point, Eldo, but the only story in Tolkien's Middle-Earth selection that I find truly consistant in atmosphere and imaginative "matter" is The Hobbit. It's his crowning achievement. The Silmarillion and LOTR do fluctuate a lot within their own covers as far as ätmosphere" and "matter" go. He does not own "two" styles, just "lighter" Tolkien and "heavier" Tolkien, and all degrees in between those extremes; think of it all operating as a thermometer. Tolkien is always Tolkien, but The Hobbit is always a consistent (light-medium) heat. Here to help! Laughing

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Kafria on Tue Mar 01, 2011 9:47 pm

Strangley enough I had never really considered there to be any real difference in style between the two stories. I think it is a real shame that The Hobbit was in anyway regretted as it is a great story. I had seen some of the old discussion on this and I did wonder - if you look at the difference in style as due to the 'translation of different sources' under Tolkiens conciet - is it not possible to consider PJ's films as the translation from a differnet source of the same history. The aural traditions of story telling kept tales alive, but the perspective of the narrator is bound to affect some facets of the story. Trying to discern true events later in histroy is always difficult and a lot is inferred by the historian! Wink

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by odo banks on Wed Mar 02, 2011 2:19 am

Knowing Tolkien looked down his nose a bit at The Hobbit really saddens me. I may have mentioned this once (or twice) way back in Old Forum days, but to me its his crowning achievement. His other works (mostly) are excellent, but to me with The Hobbit he got everything right - including the Narrator-as-character-storyteller bit, which, sadly, many don't like; sad for them; bloomin' people taking themselves too seriously. Mad

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Kafria on Fri Apr 08, 2011 9:38 pm

How do we think he would view those who hold his work in almost religious awe in the way so many on fan sites seem to?

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Eldorion on Fri Apr 08, 2011 9:44 pm

Tolkien's term for obsessive fans in his own lifetime was the "deplorable cultus", which I think speaks volumes (and is hilarious, even if I'm probably a part of it!). Laughing

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Kafria on Fri Apr 08, 2011 9:46 pm

There is a difference between knowing, enjoying and even in depth studying of this world and those who would use it as the sole guide to life and the only thing of any real worth!

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Eldorion on Fri Apr 08, 2011 10:38 pm

Well, I'm pretty sure that no one here is of the second variety, and as much as I love LOTR I would hope no one would preclude themselves from reading or enjoying other books as well. There's room enough for plenty of great stories, not to mention everything else in life...

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Saradoc on Sun Apr 10, 2011 3:14 pm

Eldorion wrote:Well, I'm pretty sure that no one here is of the second variety, and as much as I love LOTR I would hope no one would preclude themselves from reading or enjoying other books as well. There's room enough for plenty of great stories, not to mention everything else in life...

Indeed. I was happily reading Jane Eyre until a very mean comment on facebook caused me to stop.


Finished Through The Looking glass, now moving on to Jane Eyre. I'm slowly, but surely, making my way through the classics!

Lara Stace: And slowly, but surely, making your way into womanhood

How mean!

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Tinuviel on Tue Apr 12, 2011 3:12 am

I think TH and LOTR are different styles, and it's not bad that they are either! You don't have to read TH to understand LOTR, and you don't need to read LOTR to understand TH. They're separate stories about separate people targeted at separate audiences. I understand why Tolkien wanted to change the Hobbit to tie it closer to LOTR ,afterall, LOTR WAS supposed to be a sequel, but also feeling unsatisfied with how he originally wrote it, he had the rare opportunity to fix what he disliked. I would've have called him crazy for not taking that opportunity! That's every author's dream!

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Ally on Wed Apr 13, 2011 5:45 pm

Saradoc wrote:
Eldorion wrote:Well, I'm pretty sure that no one here is of the second variety, and as much as I love LOTR I would hope no one would preclude themselves from reading or enjoying other books as well. There's room enough for plenty of great stories, not to mention everything else in life...

Indeed. I was happily reading Jane Eyre until a very mean comment on facebook caused me to stop.


Finished Through The Looking glass, now moving on to Jane Eyre. I'm slowly, but surely, making my way through the classics!

Lara Stace: And slowly, but surely, making your way into womanhood

How mean!


HA! Lara's got the right of it!

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by odo banks on Tue Apr 19, 2011 9:53 pm

"deplorable cultus", sounds very Lewis --- and shows a wink. People underestimate T's sense of irony and humour - nearly always!

Tin wrote:

"I think TH and LOTR are different styles, and it's not bad that they are either! You don't have to read TH to understand LOTR, and you don't need to read LOTR to understand TH. They're separate stories about separate people targeted at separate audiences. I understand why Tolkien wanted to change the Hobbit to tie it closer to LOTR ,afterall, LOTR WAS supposed to be a sequel, but also feeling unsatisfied with how he originally wrote it, he had the rare opportunity to fix what he disliked. I would've have called him crazy for not taking that opportunity! That's every author's dream!"

Authors always find fault or room for improvement in their works. LotR Books 3-6 might clearly show cause for improvement, but FotR and TH were not so blindingly in need of it. T's thoughts of change for TH were darn preposterous - sad. He tried radical (uneccessary) change to TH, and failed, and thank Illuvatar for that!

Dream, Tin? Delusion, nightmare, psychosis, "listening-to-readers-who-take-themselves-too-serious-weakness....?"

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Saradoc on Sat Apr 23, 2011 7:46 pm

Ally wrote:
Saradoc wrote:
Eldorion wrote:Well, I'm pretty sure that no one here is of the second variety, and as much as I love LOTR I would hope no one would preclude themselves from reading or enjoying other books as well. There's room enough for plenty of great stories, not to mention everything else in life...

Indeed. I was happily reading Jane Eyre until a very mean comment on facebook caused me to stop.


Finished Through The Looking glass, now moving on to Jane Eyre. I'm slowly, but surely, making my way through the classics!

Lara Stace: And slowly, but surely, making your way into womanhood

How mean!


HA! Lara's got the right of it!

... Suspect

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Dennis the Peasant: Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Ally on Sun May 08, 2011 3:37 pm

Laughing

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by janesmith on Fri May 13, 2011 3:43 am

I agree with those who think that Tolkien was wrong to think that The Hobbit needed improving; especially the kind of drastic 'improving" he tried to accomplish with the book:-Jane

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Tinuviel on Fri May 13, 2011 5:31 am

I've never read the original version (at least I don't think I have.) My version has Kafria's avatar on the cover Laughing What is so drastically different?

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by janesmith on Fri May 13, 2011 5:44 am

Tin, I'm not referring to the changes Tolkien made between his original version in 1937 and the one he first updated to fit better with LotR (which second version is the one I grew up with and love. The changes relate mostly to what happens in "Riddles in the Dark"). The "drastic" changes I refer to were to version 2 as spelled out in "The History of the Hobbit"; it involved substantial alteration of the book. Tolkien only got a couple of chapters in. Version 3 (if I may call it that) of the story is as heavy as lead compared to version 2 (and probably version 1 of 1937 as well I'm guessing, though I never read version 1):-Jane

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Tinuviel on Sat May 14, 2011 12:07 am

so there were 3 versions total????? Is that right??? the 1937, the revised, and then a third?????

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by janesmith on Sat May 14, 2011 12:26 am

Yes. The original version of 1937 (I hope I have the year right) was updated (especially the Riddles in the Dark chapter) around the time (just after?) LotR came out. The third version never got past the first few chapters and has only been published in "The History of the Hobbit.":-Jane

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 15, 2011 3:06 am

Actually, there was a third edition published in 1966 (the same time as the second edition of The Lord of the Rings). This is in addition to the unpublished and abandoned revision from 1960 that Jane mentioned. Smile The three published editions came out in 1937, 1951, and 1966 (without even mentioning The Annotated Hobbit, which has its own history).

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by odo banks on Sun May 15, 2011 3:39 am

Do you know what changes there were from the 1951 to the 1966 edition, Eldo? Was the 1951 not just a "re-edited" version as opposed to an "updated and altered" version?

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Tinuviel on Sun May 15, 2011 4:22 am

so this means now that I have the 3rd edition??? published in 1980 I think my was...

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun May 15, 2011 2:11 pm

Thoughtthis might be a useful addition to the debate, I scanned from the annoted hobbit the pages concerning the changes made to Riddles in the Dark- which is the single most altered bit, the original 1937 text was entirely abandoned and a new version written, were as most of the other changes were small in comparison.

[img][/img]

[img][/img]

Hopefully you can zoom them up big enough to read, or if that doesnt work just right click and save it and use a pic viewer of your choice (I like infraview myself).

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 15, 2011 8:25 pm

odo banks wrote:Do you know what changes there were from the 1951 to the 1966 edition, Eldo? Was the 1951 not just a "re-edited" version as opposed to an "updated and altered" version?

I don't own a copy of the second edition myself, but in his notes about Tolkien abandoning the 1960 revision, John D. Rateliff (author of 'The History of The Hobbit' wrote that:

The End of the Fifth Phase (p. 812) wrote:According to Christopher Tolkien, when his father had reached this point in the recasting he loaned the material to a friend to get an outside opinion on it. We do not know this person's identity, but apparently her response was something along the lines of 'this is wonderful, but it's not The Hobbit'. She must have been someone whose judgment Tolkien respected, for he abandoned the work and decided to let The Hobbit retain its own autonomy and voice rather than completely incorporate it into The Lord of the Rings as a lesser 'prelude' to the greater work. When he briefly returned to it in 1965 for the third edition revisions, he restricted himself in the main to the correction of errors and egregious departures from Middle-earth as it had developed (e.g., the policement of Chapter II; DAA.69) and left matters of style and tone alone....

The point in the narrative at which Tolkien abandoned his efforts was approximately Bilbo's arrival in Rivendell. The citation of "DAA.69" refers to (I believe) Douglas A. Anderson's The Annotated Hobbit.

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Re: Tolkien: The True Tragedy?

Post by odo banks on Sun May 15, 2011 11:55 pm

So, strictly speaking, there is version 1 (1937), version 2 (1951) with marked changes to Riddles (especially) and version 3, whch was only a few chapters of heavilly rewritten work but never published (until History of the Hobbit). The 1965 was just a light edit it seems and not really a new edition as such.

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