Middle-earth and the modern era

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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Kenelm on Sun May 04, 2014 6:02 pm

Eldorion wrote:I've read that part of your website, but with all due respect, I can't say I agree with it.  The claim about the location of Hobbiton appears to be based on one of two assumptions.  Either (a) out of universe, Tolkien consciously based the geography of the Shire on his childhood home and intended the two to be equivalent, which to the best of my knowledge is never stated in the letters or any of his posthumously published writing; or (b) in-universe, the geography of modern Sarehole is supposed to have been in continuous existence since the time of LOTR 6000 years ago, which again is not suggested by Tolkien's writing and also would seem to be at odds with our knowledge of the history of the area.

Sarehole Mill is the only place he singled out as an inspiration for him. He also stated that Hobbits are based on the village folk of Sarehole. With regard to the history of the area, Neolithic remains have been found in Moseley Bog.

I'm not sure how the proponents of Oxford square the fact that it's a large, academic city with the rural isolation of Hobbiton, and they certainly can't point to any particular places, such are Sarehole Mill, or a road layout, that match Hobbiton.

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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 04, 2014 6:05 pm

Saying that Tolkien based the road layout of Hobbiton on Sarehole is a very different claim from saying that Sarehole and Hobbiton are the exact same location. I'm not 100% sure which one you're arguing, but the latter seemed to be the case from you website.
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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Kenelm on Sun May 04, 2014 6:11 pm

Eldorion wrote:Saying that Tolkien based the road layout of Hobbiton on Sarehole is a very different claim from saying that Sarehole and Hobbiton are the exact same location.  I'm not 100% sure which one you're arguing, but the latter seemed to be the case from you website.

If Hobbiton is anywhere at all, it is Sarehole. It certainly doesn't match Oxford in any way. If one treats the information provided by Tolkien as historical documents (and subject to all the same problems as historical documents), then no other conclusion is possible, in my opinion. If, on the other hand, one treats it as fiction, then Hobbiton is nowhere and it doesn't matter.

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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 04, 2014 6:14 pm

If we are to treat Tolkien's writing as a historical document, then I don't think we can assume that hills, rivers, and least of all roads would have survived undamaged and unchanged for 6000 years. Maybe that's just me, though. Shrugging
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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Mrs Figg on Sun May 04, 2014 6:28 pm

Shocked  I think ME is more a case of places of inspiration rather than direct reference to a particular place. Tolkien was inspired by the English countryside but he didnt mean us to think that Oxford or Birmingham was actually Hobbiton, its the spirit of the place thats important, the way the landscape looked, the people, its essence and its legends and folklore.
Its fun to look at maps but i dont think theres any point in trying to get them to match up exactly. A lot of ME seems to be under the Sea if we take things literally.

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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Kenelm on Sun May 04, 2014 6:37 pm

Eldorion wrote:If we are to treat Tolkien's writing as a historical document, then I don't think we can assume that hills, rivers, and least of all roads would have survived undamaged and unchanged for 6000 years.  Maybe that's just me, though. Shrugging

Indeed - and we know that rivers, coastlines and even mountains, to a certain extent, have changed since then. But since we have a very detailed description, map and painting of Hobbiton, which matches Sarehole very precisely, we are led to assume that this was one part of the world that remained free of any major change.

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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Bluebottle on Sun May 04, 2014 8:23 pm

I don't think it's that much of a stretch to imagine Tolkien might have had somewhere near his childhood home in mind when he imagined and made a map of Hobbiton.  Shrugging 

Saying they are the exact same place is still a large step though.

Oh, and welcome, of course, Kenelm.  Very Happy

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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Ringdrotten on Sun May 04, 2014 9:00 pm

Welcome aboard, Kenelm! Very Happy

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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by bungobaggins on Sun May 04, 2014 9:06 pm

Wouldn't Tolkien's proposing of Middle-earth and its events actually having existed, go against his Christian faith and its view on the origin of the world? Was Tolkien a creationist?

Or at the end of the day are we to assume that the idea that Middle-earth was our world, is more or less tongue-in-cheek?

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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Kenelm on Sun May 04, 2014 9:29 pm

bungobaggins wrote:Wouldn't Tolkien's proposing of Middle-earth and its events actually having existed, go against his Christian faith and its view on the origin of the world? Was Tolkien a creationist?

Or at the end of the day are we to assume that the idea that Middle-earth was our world, is more or less tongue-in-cheek?

He wrote it so as not to specifically contradict his Christian faith, though towards the end of his life he apparently began to treat his mythology as if it were real. Or, to put it another way, came to realise that it is indeed so.

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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by halfwise on Sun May 04, 2014 9:43 pm

I have to jump in and point out that over these scales the map projection makes a difference. Can't just assume square relationships on a sphere. Nobody (including Tolkien) knows what projection might be used for his maps, but one might assume a roughly equal area map, which would not preserve angles over large distances.

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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Kenelm on Sun May 04, 2014 9:54 pm

halfwise wrote:I have to jump in and point out that over these scales the map projection makes a difference.  Can't just assume square relationships on a sphere.  Nobody (including Tolkien) knows what projection might be used for his maps, but one might assume a roughly equal area map, which would not preserve angles over large distances.

It's potentially even worse than that, since Tolkien's maps assume a flat earth (even though it wasn't).

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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun May 04, 2014 10:02 pm

I just took the map of ME which had a scale in miles and I used to that to triangulate how far away places were from the Shire.

Then I transposed that to a map of Europe using that maps scale guide. So Rivendell is the same distance east of the Shire point on the europe map as it is on the ME map.

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Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Kenelm on Sun May 04, 2014 10:05 pm

Pettytyrant101 wrote:I just took the map of ME which had a scale in miles and I used to that to triangulate how far away places were from the Shire.

Then I transposed that to a map of Europe using that maps scale guide. So Rivendell is the same distance east of the Shire point on the europe map as it is on the ME map.

Mine is basically the same, too.

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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 04, 2014 10:54 pm

I went ahead and split this into its own thread since it's becoming a fruitful and somewhat lengthy discussion. Speaking of which, thank you for starting this conversation up, Kenelf! Very Happy
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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Kenelm on Sun May 04, 2014 10:57 pm

Eldorion wrote:I went ahead and split this into its own thread since it's becoming a fruitful and somewhat lengthy discussion.  Speaking of which, thank you for starting this conversation up, Kenelf! Very Happy

My pleasure, it's proving to be very interesting.

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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 04, 2014 10:58 pm

bungobaggins wrote:Wouldn't Tolkien's proposing of Middle-earth and its events actually having existed, go against his Christian faith and its view on the origin of the world? Was Tolkien a creationist?

Or at the end of the day are we to assume that the idea that Middle-earth was our world, is more or less tongue-in-cheek?

Tolkien wasn't a creationist; he made a number of comments that indicates he believed in evolution (some of which were posted somewhere in the Origins of Hobbits thread ages ago). That's actually not at all uncommon for Catholics, and the Church itself has acknowledged evolution since at least 1950. Also, as Kenelm mentions, Tolkien became very concerned in his later years with the scientific plausibility of Middle-earth. In the "Myths Transformed" essays (published in Morgoth's Ring) he proposed a number of sweeping revisions to The Silmarillion that would have done away with most of the explicitly supernatural elements of the mythology and brought it in line with current scientific knowledge (relegating the old myths to the status of mannish legends mixed with stories from the Elves and corrupted as they were passed down through the generations). However, he did not live long enough to follow through on this revision, and it's possible he might have changed his mind about the whole project with more time.
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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 04, 2014 11:01 pm

Kenelm wrote:It's potentially even worse than that, since Tolkien's maps assume a flat earth (even though it wasn't).

This is a very important point, but one that had escaped me until you brought it up just now. Karen Wynn Fonstad discussed the issue at some length in The Atlas of Middle-earth, but the gist of it is that even in his world and continent-wide maps, Tolkien did not take spherical projections into account and drew the maps as if the surface of the Earth was flat, even after having come up with the notion of the world being made round. Fonstad herself opted to map Middle-earth in the same way that Tolkien did, and I'm not aware of any scholarly attempts at adjusting the geography of Middle-earth to fit a round Earth model.
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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Mrs Figg on Sun May 04, 2014 11:01 pm

oh here it is  Shocked

not the earth, the thread.  Razz

split


whatever that means


 Embarassed

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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 04, 2014 11:07 pm

Bluebottle wrote:I don't think it's that much of a stretch to imagine Tolkien might have had somewhere near his childhood home in mind when he imagined and made a map of Hobbiton.  Shrugging 

Saying they are the exact same place is still a large step though.

That's kind of how I feel. I'm also not sure how the notion of a continuously existing settlement at Hobbiton/Sarehole squares with our primary world understanding of the history of the Midlands. While this is not a subject that I am familiar with, my understanding from a cursory review of a couple different websites is that it was founded by the Anglo-Saxons. Now, one could try to combine this with The Book of Lost Tales and its account of the Anglo-Saxons meeting the last remnants of the civilizations of the Elder Days, but there are a few problems with this (IMO). First, there weren't even such a thing as Hobbits in Tolkien's imagination when he wrote The Book of Lost Tales and I am as a general rule very uncomfortable with trying to mash together elements from different eras of the legendarium. It strikes me as being very close to fanfiction. The other problem is that, from a primary world perspective, we have no historical records to indicate a history of Hobbit settlement in the Midlands. While we have little in the way of written records from the Celts or the Anglo-Saxons, one would expect the Romans at least to have made some note of this highly unusual settlement within the territory that they administered for hundreds of years.
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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Mrs Figg on Sun May 04, 2014 11:07 pm

splitting the thread
across the ethersphere
sometimes there
sometimes here
wheres it gone?
nobody knows
when I cant find it
it totally blows
but not to worry
Eldo split it



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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 04, 2014 11:09 pm

Kenelm wrote:My pleasure, it's proving to be very interesting.

Thumbs Up

Mrs Figg wrote:split

whatever that means

It just means that I put my mod hat on for a moment, selected all the relevant posts from the Introduction thread (or should I say, the posts that were irrelevant to that thread but involved in the expanded conversation) and put them into a brand-new thread instead. I don't do it often, since I think topic drift can be a good thing, but when a certain sub-topic gets really long, interesting, or just extra far from a thread's original purpose, it makes sense to me to give that topic its own home. Smile
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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Kenelm on Sun May 04, 2014 11:09 pm

Eldorion wrote:
Kenelm wrote:It's potentially even worse than that, since Tolkien's maps assume a flat earth (even though it wasn't).

This is a very important point, but one that had escaped me until you brought it up just now.  Karen Wynn Fonstad discussed the issue at some length in The Atlas of Middle-earth, but the gist of it is that even in his world and continent-wide maps, Tolkien did not take spherical projections into account and drew the maps as if the surface of the Earth was flat, even after having come up with the notion of the world being made round.  Fonstad herself opted to map Middle-earth in the same way that Tolkien did, and I'm not aware of any scholarly attempts at adjusting the geography of Middle-earth to fit a round Earth model.

There are loads of different projections of Europe, so it seems best to use the one that gives the best match. To take just one example from the one I put together earlier, Fangorn Forest just happens to fall over the Black Forest in Germany.

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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 04, 2014 11:10 pm

Kenelm wrote:There are loads of different projections of Europe, so it seems best to use the one that gives the best match. To take just one example from the one I put together earlier, Fangorn Forest just happens to fall over the Black Forest in Germany.

I was referring to attempts at adjusting Middle-earth without laying it over Europe, but I have been very impressed by your and Petty's work at combing the two in this thread. study
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Re: Middle-earth and the modern era

Post by Kenelm on Sun May 04, 2014 11:14 pm

Eldorion wrote:
Bluebottle wrote:I don't think it's that much of a stretch to imagine Tolkien might have had somewhere near his childhood home in mind when he imagined and made a map of Hobbiton.  Shrugging 

Saying they are the exact same place is still a large step though.

That's kind of how I feel.  I'm also not sure how the notion of a continuously existing settlement at Hobbiton/Sarehole squares with our primary world understanding of the history of the Midlands.  While this is not a subject that I am familiar with, my understanding from a cursory review of a couple different websites is that it was founded by the Anglo-Saxons.  Now, one could try to combine this with The Book of Lost Tales and its account of the Anglo-Saxons meeting the last remnants of the civilizations of the Elder Days, but there are a few problems with this (IMO).  First, there weren't even such a thing as Hobbits in Tolkien's imagination when he wrote The Book of Lost Tales and I am as a general rule very uncomfortable with trying to mash together elements from different eras of the legendarium.  It strikes me as being very close to fanfiction.  The other problem is that, from a primary world perspective, we have no historical records to indicate a history of Hobbit settlement in the Midlands.  While we have little in the way of written records from the Celts or the Anglo-Saxons, one would expect the Romans at least to have made some note of this highly unusual settlement within the territory that they administered for hundreds of years.

There are Neolithic remains, burnt mounds, in Moseley Bog, indicating settlement for around 5000 years, possibly far longer (they were discovered in the drought of 1976, after Tolkien died). There's also no reason to assume the Hobbits were still here by Roman times, either having being dispersed or, possibly, assimilated.

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