terça-feira, 29 de setembro de 2009

Túrin Turambar e o Livre-Arbítrio.



São frequentes pela Internet afora discussões envolvendo o Livre-Arbítrio de Túrin Turambar. Inclusive, recentemente, o tema do Livre-Arbítrio em Tolkien , o ponto cardinal nessa discussão, foi o fulcro de um acalorado debate entre Verlyn Flieger e Carl Hostetter que assumiram duas posições distintas com relação ao livre-arbítrio dos elfos, ambos, todavia concordando totalmente com relação ao livre-arbítrio humano, reconhecendo sua coexistência com a Divina Providência de Ilúvatar e, portanto, com a Predestinação que isso gera.

Não conscientes dessas recentes evoluções da discussão , nessa matéria, como em tudo que envolve Teologia e Filosofia, as pessoas daqui do Brasil costumam se engajar em conversas de surdos usando terminologias inapropriadas e discrepantes e , frequentemente, sendo despistados por noções preconcebidas sobre o que é Predestinação e sobre o que consiste, realmente, a Free Will. Esse é o aproveitamento de um sumário feito pra reduzir esses problemas.

O dilema todo parte do fato de que no Silmarillion, Melkor "amaldiçoou Húrin , Morwen e seus descendentes, mas Tolkien enfatizou que os Homens não estavam presos à Canção dos Ainur e tinham Livre-Arbítrio.Então algumas pessoas extrapolam a conclusão pra dizer que o que houve com Túrin teria sido somente um uso de livre-arbítrio mal "arbitrado" e que a maldição de Morgoth teria efeito apenas como forma de "sugestão" psicológica e não como um poder sobrenatural pairando sobre a vida do personagem. A análise dos textos que acompanham Children of Húrin e das Cartas de Tolkien desmente essa conclusão.Mas vamos por partes.

Em primeiro lugar, as pessoas têm um problema meio sério quando vão analisar essa questão.Muitas acham que Predestinação não pode coexistir com Livre-arbítrio e, portanto, não conseguem compreender muito bem como é que a existência de “previsões” ou visões proféticas no Tolkien pode se harmonizar com a dádiva da “free-will”.




O que acontece aí é que o Tolkien está usando como referencial a concepção teológica tomista católica( de São Tomás de Aquino) sobre a matéria. Ela está explicada nas suas linhas gerais nesse texto aí:

Estudos da Bíblia

Uma análise mais detalhada e profunda pode ser achada aí:

Livre Arbítrio e Presciência Divina -A Solução dos medievais

Excelente texto sobre o tema em inglês.

Fate and Free Will in Tolkien's Middle-earth

Reparem na similaridade da terminologia empregada por Tolkien qdo vai explicar diversas coisas no Osanwë Kenta. em sua nota número 6.


Para São Tomás e para os católicos ( e Tolkien era católico), o conhecimento pleno do Espaço e do Tempo é uma conseqüência necessária da Onisciência de Deus e, portanto EXISTE PREDESTINAÇÃO mas SEM que isso implique em perda de Livre-Arbítrio. Eru e Jeová vivem “fora” do tempo e vêem o presente, o passado e o futuro SIMULTANEAMENTE ).Em Tolkien, a mesma coisa acontece e os Ainur foram instrumentos de Deus em criar essa Predestinação que é a Música dos Ainur como foi cantada. Melkor e todos os Ainur em Tolkien foram os ajudantes em criar a “planta”, o projeto arquitetônico do Espaço-Tempo.
Assim, do mesmo jeito que ninguém “vê” o futuro enquanto dentro do Espaço-Tempo , de Eä salvo por graça de Eru, ninguém abaixo de Ilúvatar tem o poder de determinar ou influenciar o destino de um ser ( ou seja de mudar a Música)a menos que isso tenha sido permitido por Eru. E é aí que está: ISSO ACONTECEU na Canção dos Ainur!



Morgoth não precisa “mudar o destino” de Húrin e sua família por meios sobrenaturais dentro de Eä e nem tem esse poder mas ele NÃO PRECISA TÊ-LO porque, por Graça de Eru, ele foi co-partícipe no processo de criação do “projeto” do Tempo-Espaço e sua discórdia tornou-se parte do Terceiro Tema que introduziu os Elfos e os Homens. Essa “Predestinação” maligna, que já é parte da Canção,( eis o porquê de “coincidências” como o reencontro dos dois irmãos) é uma “Maldição” sobre o Húrin e sua família mas isso não implica em perda do Livre-Arbítrio de nenhum deles porque a Predestinação não tem esse efeito. Húrin e sua família poderiam ter mudado o Destino O problema é que Morgoth, estando dentro de Eä, como personagem da história que ele ajudou a escrever, faz de tudo ao seu alcance pra impedir que isso aconteça.Ele é como um mestre de RPG que tenta obrigar os jogadores a se comportarem de acordo com o script. O script ele co-roteirizou junto com Eru Ilúvatar e os outros Ainur




Assim, parte desse conhecimento prévio do Contínuo Espaço-Tempo que é de Eru somente, é partilhado com os Valar porque eles foram auxiliares no processo de criação do “Conto de Arda” ao entoarem ( e distorcerem ) a Música . Por isso eles não só prevêem ( já que "pré-viram" na Visão e se lembram do que cantaram)) o que vai acontecer mas “criaram” também o destino de Eä enquanto cantavam. A discórdia semeada por Melkor no momento em que a Ainulindalë foi feita se manifesta como uma “predestinação” maligna sobre tudo que existe em Eä e, especialmente, nos aspectos ou elementos da “História”onde ele mais se concentrou como no destino dos Filhos de Húrin e no dos Noldor. É daí que viria a tendência para a Entropia na Criação de Ilúvatar, já que Melkor era tangido pelo seu desejo niilista.

Mas o fato deles estarem “predestinados”, desse destino ser ruim e, portanto, uma maldição, não impede que eles usem o livre-arbítrio pra mudar o destino. O conhecimento prévio da escolha a ser feita e de suas consequências eventuais por Eru ou, parcialmente, pelos Valar ou Morgoth, não impõe essa escolha aos Filhos de Ilúvatar.os Homens não estão presos ao que foi cantado e os Elfos ,por graça de Eru, podem ter o seu livre-arbítrio acolhido por Ilúvatar como uma mudança no "destino" do Mundo como ficou implícito ter acontecido no caso de Lúthien Tinúviel que entreteceu seu fado com o do mortal Beren.

Considerar as palavras de Húrin ditas no capítulo "Das palavras de Húrin e Morgoth", como verdades absolutas é incorreto. Húrin achava que o que Melkor dizia era jactância sem sentido que ele não poderia "comandar" seus filhos e Morwen à distância para que eles cumprissem a "profecia" ominosa do Vala "enquanto ele quisesse conservar seu corpo e ser um Rei visível na Terra" e muitos leitores o interpretam ao pé da letra. O texto inteiro da introdução que o Christopher Tolkien fez ao Children of Húrin destaca um fato importante: que , embora o que Húrin tenha dito a Morgoth contivesse muitas verdades, várias das crenças dele partiam de uma perspectiva limitada que subestimava tremendamente a verdadeira extensão dos poderes de Morgoth.




É por isso que Christopher Tolkien diz na introdução que a maldição de Melkor é mais do que uma imprecação pra que um poder superior intervenha, mas sim "uma "malediction" de vasto e misterioso poder". Não há nada de misterioso na mera manipulação de poder temporal ou no uso de servos como Glaurung pra fazer a vontade de Morgoth. É, pois, em outro aspecto que a Maldição realmente se manifesta.


But the tragedy of his life is by no means compre¬hended solely in the portrayal of character, for he was condemned to live trapped in a malediction of huge and mysterious power, the curse of hatred set by Morgoth upon Húrin and Morwen and their children, because Húrin defied him, and refused his will.(...) The curse of such a being, who can claim that ‘the shadow of my purpose lies upon Arda [the Earth], and all that is in it bends slowly and surely to my will’, is unlike the curses or imprecations of beings of far less power. Morgoth is not ‘invoking’ evil or calamity on Húrin and his children, he is not ‘calling on’ a higher power to be the agent: for he, ‘Master of the fates of Arda’ as he named himself to Húrin, intends to bring about the ruin of his enemy by the force of his own gigantic will. Thus he ‘designs’ the future of those whom he hates, and so he says to Húrin: ‘Upon all whom you love my thought shall weigh as a cloud of Doom, and it shall bring them down into darkness and despair.’


Melkor, como já dito, é como um Mestre de RPG que tenta fazer com que os jogadores sigam o roteiro da campanha definido por ele sendo ele próprio, além do Gamemaster, um NPC influente no cenário. Melkor foi co-roteirista da "aventura" que é o Conto de Arda. Assim como acontece com os players no RPG, a família de Húrin tem o poder de fugir do roteiro preexistente mas Melkor manipula, já como personagem da peça que ele mesmo escreveu, os eventos pra que isso não aconteça, para que eles não usem a dádiva do Livre-arbítrio de maneira sábia.

Comentário de Tolkien recentemente editado por Verlyn Flieger em Tolkien Studies 6.É óbvia a inferência de que ele pensava em Édipo Rei de Sófocles e, por via de consequência, em Túrin quando escreveu essa passagem, já que ELE MESMO comparou ambos.

:They [i.e. Elves] would not have denied that (say) a man was
(may have been) “fated” to meet an enemy of his at a certain
time and place, but they would have denied that he was
“fated” then to speak to him in terms of hatred, or to slay
him.
“Will” at a certain grade must enter into many of the
complex motions leading to a meeting of persons; but the
Eldar held that only those efforts of “will” were “free” which
were directed to a fully aware purpose.

E uma vez que foi cantado, o Mal disseminado na Ainulindalë fará com que o "Universo conspire" para tornar a Predestinação realidade. Assim é que , por exemplo, Nienor e Túrin se encontram por "acaso" com ela, justamente, sob um feitiço conjurado por Glaurung pra provocar amnésia nela, precisamente em cima do túmulo de Finduilas. Isso não é, simplesmente, uma obra do "acaso", mas de um "Acaso" qualificado , sendo, precisamente, onde a Maldição atua com mais força: eventos aleatórios se moldam ao desígnio de Morgoth, " vergam-se lenta e firmemente à sua vontade". A "estória" cantada na Música dos Ainur se torna ou tende a se tornar "história" como Tolkien explicou em uma de suas cartas.

Carta nº212

Isso lhes foi proposto primeiramente em forma musical ou abstrata e depois em uma “visão histórica”. Na primeira interpretação, a vasta Música dos Ainur, Melkor introduziu alterações, não interpretações da mente do Único, e surgiu uma grande dissonância. O Único então apresentou essa “Música”, incluindo as aparentes dissonâncias, como uma “história” visível.

Neste estágio ela ainda possuía apenas uma validade, a qual a validade de uma “história” ( "story" )entre nós mesmos pode ser comparada: ela “existe” na mente do contador e derivativamente nas mentes dos ouvintes, mas não no mesmo plano como o contador ou os ouvintes. Quando o Único (o Contador) disse Que Exista *, o Conto então se tornou História, no mesmo plano que os ouvintes; e estes poderiam, caso desejassem, entrar nela. Muitos dos Ainur entraram nela e nela devem residir até o Fim, sendo envolvidos no Tempo, a série de eventos que a completa. Esses eram os Valar e seus servidores menores. São aqueles que se “enamoraram” pela visão e sem dúvida foram aqueles que desempenharam a parte mais “subcriativa” (ou, como poderíamos dizer, “artística”) na Música.


É por isso que Glaurung já sabia que Nienor estava grávida quando pôs os olhos nela no fim da história. Ele e Melkor já haviam planejado pra que acontecesse exatamente o que houve : o incesto entre os dois irmãos.



Assim, esse tipo de onisciência ou clarividência limitadas de Morgoth é um corolário da própria Providência de Eru Ilúvatar e é o metodo segundo o qual sua Curse produz efeitos, explorando e cooptando o livre-arbítrio dos indivíduos amaldiçoados e manipulando eventos "casuais" e "coincindências" para que elas auxiliem em produzir o efeito final.



Mas Tolkien desde muito tempo antes já esboçava na sua leitura da Volsunga Saga o fato de que ele não havia, de fato, terminado com Túrin quando a história dele finalizou

Tolkien makes this renewal contingent on Sigurd, whose death is required so that he can lead Odin's host of warriors in the final battle: “If in day of Doom / one deathless stands / who death hath tasted/ and dies no more, / the serpent-slayer,/ seed of Odin,/ then all shall not end, / nor Earth perish.

quarta-feira, 16 de setembro de 2009

The Swedish Controversy


INTRODUCTION

Who was J. R. R. Tolkien? Was he a linguistic genius and the creator of one of the most widely read fantasy epics of the western world? Or was he only a linguistic genius and otherwise a conceited old professor who, with a lot of borrowing and help from others, wrote a singularly indifferent and exceedingly lengthy novel for children? Over the years, critics of Tolkien and his work have largely been of two opposing kinds: one overly enthusiastic and complimentary and the other uncompromisingly negative. The Swedish translator of The Lord of the Rings*, Åke Ohlmarks, belonged to the latter camp.
When published, The Lord of the Rings received its share of immediate criticism, both good and bad. Since then, much has been said about it, and the amount of work put into books and essays on the subject has been enormous. For obvious reasons only a minor part of the existing material can be used within the limits of an essay like this. In addition, the majority of these works are mainly concerned with various aspects of Tolkien's sub-creation, Middle-Earth, and not the quality of the material.
This essay will take a look at the criticism, mainly that expressed by Ohlmarks. In the first chapter there is a brief account of Tolkien's academic career, various facts which were to influence his later work and circumstances regarding the writing and publishing of his books. Åke Ohlmarks is given a chapter of his own and finally two specific problems are discussed.
The essay will deal only with criticism of the works published under J. R. R. Tolkien's personal supervision, i.e. while he still was alive. The Silmarillion and other such works and compilations published after his death are thus disqualified from scrutiny1. Even though the texts of course are based on Tolkien's original manuscripts, complete certainty over the shape and manner in which they were supposed to be published (if at all - Tolkien was a minute perfectionist) cannot be achieved, which in my opinion makes any criticism misplaced. Throughout the essay The Lord of The Rings is abbreviated as LOTR.
________________________________________
*Please note that within this essay underlining does not mark an internet link, but a title. At the top and the bottom, though, are located conventional internet navigation toolbars.
1Except in 'The Nature of Evil' where The Silmarillion is used to discuss the origin of evil.
Copyright (c) 1995 Ludvig Grahn

A RING IS BORN
Childhood


J. R. R. Tolkien was born in 1892 in South Africa. His father was from Birmingham and had previously taken up a position at a bank in Bloemfontein. His mother, from Suffield, took care of the children. However, little John Ronald, with his mother and brother, soon had to go back to England because of ill health and while they were away, his father died. As a result of this the family came to stay in Birmingham.
Tolkien was early on very interested in languages. At the age of four he could read and write and before long his mother had taught him the basics of Latin and French. He was soon discovered to be extremely gifted in the sphere of languages and later in school, at King Edward's in Birmingham, he learned German and Greek.
After the death of his beloved mother in 1904, he became interested in the language of Chaucer (he did not like Shakespeare) and his teacher happily gave him a beginner's book in Old English. He soon finished the book and went on to - and was fascinated by - Beowulf. He returned to Middle English and the stories of King Arthur, then moved on to Icelandic and read about Sigmund and the dragon Fafner. His love of languages and words now made him save money so that he could buy old German books on philology.
From this love of words he began constructing languages of his own which, although mostly invented for fun, were complete, with working grammars and logical vocabularies. In a television interview in 1968 he says:
I first began seriously to invent languages when I was 13 or 14 - I never stopped really... Languages have a flavour to me... a new language is like a new wine.2
One of the first languages constructed in this way had Spanish as a model. However, he was soon to stumble across his greatest linguistic passion of all - Gothic. He was excited by the dead language and invented new words to replace missing ones. At the same time he was working on artificial alphabets.
An important element of Tolkien's life was his male friends and the clubs they founded. In his last year in Birmingham, the Tea Club was formed, which soon changed into the Barrovian Society and then simply to T. C. B. S. The club's activities consisted of meetings, where matters of science and literature were discussed. The summer vacation of that year was spent walking in the Alps.
Oxford
In 1911 Tolkien was granted a scholarship to study Classical Languages at Oxford. He loved the life in the ancient academic city. In the first year he also learned a little Welsh, another of his childhood passions. He had earlier enjoyed an English translation of Kalevala and now he also had an opportunity to learn some Finnish. Although he was not very successful at this, he was filled with inspiration to construct yet another language, the one which was to become Quenya, or High Elvish.
For various reasons, Tolkien was not able to obtain a First Class degree. This was, to say the least, a little disappointing and as a result he was talked into changing his subject to English. Obviously, this was where his main interest lay.
The Honours School of English Language and Literature was divided in two, with one linguistic and one literary department. Naturally Tolkien belonged to the linguists. The following terms proved to be hard work, and he came across many works in Old English which were new to him. In one of them he found two lines which were to bring about a drastic change to his life.
Eala Earendel engla beorhtast
ofer middangeard monnum sended.3
The words meant: "Hail, Earendel, brightest of angels/above the middle-earth sent unto men" and they moved Tolkien deeply. He studied Old Icelandic, and read both Eddas - the prose and the poem - and was greatly influenced by Völuspa.
In spring 1914 he received the Skeat award in English of 5 pounds. In the summer in Cornwall, he wrote the first poem of Eärendil.
The War

Tolkien's participation in World War I was brief but substantial. After some training he was sent to France in 1915. At the beginning of 1916 he became a signaller because then he would be able to work with words and messages. He learned the Morse alphabet and a number of different modes of signalling and in the summer he took part in trench combat a couple of times. In October, however, he caught a mysterious fever and one month later he was sent back to England. The war had left many marks. Professor Tom Shippey, who now has the same position at Leeds University that Tolkien once had, has made this observation:
When he was 22 he had many friends, when he was 26 they were nearly all dead. Obviously an experience like this does affect anybody and from a very early period, Tolkien obviously continues to think about death and part of his mythology is to construct a race of creatures who are deathless and who wish to escape from deathlessness in a way that human beings wish to escape from death. But the centre of all that, is the thought of death.4
Back in England, as a convalescent, Tolkien began constructing his mythology. According to Carpenter, there were three main motives for doing this: first, the languages that he had created had made such a strong impression on him that he wanted to create stories and legends to go with them. Thus, the names of his characters and creatures were always important. In the TV interview he says:
I always in the writing - always - start with the name. Give me a name and it just produces the story, not the other way around, normally.5
Secondly, he had an urge to express his innermost feelings by means of poetry and thirdly, he wanted to create a mythology for England.
He wrote 'The Fall of Gondolin', 'Húrin's Children' and 'Beren and Lúthien' which later were to appear in The Silmarillion. He also made the time to learn a little Russian. Tolkien was officially granted leave from the army in November 1918.
Back in Oxford, Tolkien worked for a while on the New English Dictionary and extended his knowledge of philology. In 1920 he was offered a position as Reader at Leeds University and four years later, aged 32, he became Professor of English. One year later, in 1925, a chair became vacant at Oxford and Tolkien was by a small margin elected Professor of Anglo-Saxon.
The following years were to be comparatively uneventful. Tolkien instructed students and gave lectures during the day and during most of the night he worked on his legends. His life was filled with the things he loved the most. However, one important part was missing: the clubs. In the war many of his friends had died and the clubs with them. This Tolkien could not stand and he became instrumental in the founding of several new clubs, among them The Inklings.
The Inklings began as a literary club in 1931, and during its meetings unpublished material was read aloud and criticised. There was no fixed membership but among the more frequent attenders were people like J. R. R. and Christopher Tolkien, C. S. and Warren Lewis, R. E. Havard, Owen Barfield, Hugo Dyson and Charles Williams. In this environment Tolkien began to read parts of the work which was later to become...
The Hobbit
To establish exactly when Tolkien began to write The Hobbit has proved to be rather difficult. There are no dated original manuscripts left and when asked, Tolkien could not remember. However, according to Carpenter, it must have been in 1930-31 6.
At this point, The Hobbit had no explicit connection with his other myths. It was simply a bed-time story he had made up for his children and that he now had expanded and put into writing. It was published in September 1937 and the reviews were brilliant.
Tolkien later regretted the patronizing style he had used in the book. In later editions he also made some changes in order for it to fit better with the forthcoming LOTR.
The Lord of the Rings
Primarily because of the good reviews, LOTR began in 1936 as a sequel to The Hobbit. He soon put it away, however, in order to continue with his mythologies which were much more dear to his heart. People close to him made him realise though, that if he wanted to publish any more books, they had to be about hobbits, not elves.
As Tolkien was writing the first chapter of the new book, he had really no idea what it was going to be about. He simply wrote about a couple of hobbits who were related to Bilbo and who had his ring, with which they were going to do something. The work proceeded slowly and sporadically and characters such as the Black Rider and Strider were as new and mysterious to Tolkien when they suddenly appeared, as they would be to any new reader today.
In August 1938 the hobbits had reached the house of Tom Bombadill but it was not until they were in Rivendell that Tolkien suddenly knew the name and the course of the new book - The Lord of the Rings. In March 1939 he gave a lecture on fairy-stories in which he explained what he believed was the working principle behind a good story and the important role of the narrator - or subcreator. Then World War II broke out and Tolkien was for a long time stuck at Balin's tomb in Moria.
After having written the short story 'Leaf by Niggle' Tolkien was inspired to move on with LOTR. In April 1944 the group of travellers had been dissolved and Frodo and Sam had met Gollum. In May Tolkien was wondering whether 'Shelob' was a good name for a giant spider or not.
By the end of 1947 he had finally reached the end. However, his sense of perfection meant that he had a lot of revision and rewriting to do and it was not until the autumn of 1949 that the entire manuscript was finished and neatly typed.
The reason for its then taking five whole years to become published can only be ascribed to Tolkien himself. As mentioned earlier, his mythologies meant more to him and the following years were primarily filled with the publishers trying to explain to Tolkien that they were not going to publish The Silmarillion (which was not even finished at the time) but only LOTR.
Eventually, Tolkien gave in, but it was not easy to 'go public' like this. Tolkien was not just writing another novel like any other author: this was his life's work. In a letter to his dear friend, Father Robert Murray, he said:
I am dreading the publication, for it will be impossible not to mind what is said. I have exposed my heart to be shot at.7
In the TV-programme Tolkien quotes Simone de Beauvoir:
"There is no such thing as a natural death. Nothing that happens to man is ever natural... All men must die. And for every man his death is an accident, and even if he knows it, he can sense to it an unjustifiable violation"
- You may agree with the words or not, but those are the keyspring of the Lord of the Rings. 8
Tom Shippey sees that "LOTR is not a completely isolated work". He notices that it has something in common with its contemporaries, such as 1984, Animal Farm and somewhat later Lord of the Flies, apart from their all being post-war books:
... they want to say something about human nature, they want to talk... about the nature of evil and the nature of death and it seems that the writers cannot do that inside a realistic tradition... they must therefore say it in some way through the medium of fantasy.9
The Critics
The thick book with its unusual content attracted a great deal of attention. Many reviewers were singularly impressed and praised Tolkien to the skies. Among these were W. H. Auden in America and of course his dear friend C. S. Lewis. However, negative criticism was just around the corner. In January 1956, Mark Roberts wrote that LOTR is "clearly an unusual sort of narrative for a modern writer to attempt"10.
With Tolkien's essay on fairy-stories in mind he tries to analyse LOTR in Tolkien's own terms. These are Fantasy, Recovery, Escape and Consolation and here he rates it very highly. However, there is a missing piece in the total picture of the novel, namely the 'value'.
One cannot very well talk about the style of the book, for the style changes so constantly and so radically... The trouble is, however, that these changes of style, though well-intentioned, are managed in a way that is hopelessly mechanical.
In his conclusion he sums up:
Perhaps the word 'contrive' will serve to pinpoint what is ultimately wrong with this book: at bottom it is all a matter of contrivance. It doesn't issue from an understanding of reality which is not to be denied; it is not moulded by some controlling vision of things which is at the same time its raison d'être. ... Lacking a serious controlling principle, the work sprawls.
In April the same year in The Nation, Edmund Wilson decides to straighten things out as far as LOTR is concerned. He begins by mentioning that LOTR, as opposed to the children's book The Hobbit, is intended for adult readers. This he cannot understand and is perplexed by all the recognised reviewers giving it so many compliments.
There are... some details that are a little unpleasant for a children's book, but except when he is being pedantic and also boring the adult reader, there is little in The Lord of the Rings over the head of a seven-year-old child. It is essentially a children's book... which has somehow grown out of hand...11

Wilson is on no level impressed with Dr. Tolkien. He notes that
Prose and verse are on the same level of professorial amateurishness.
There are streaks of imagination: the ancient tree-spirits, the Ents, with their deep eyes, twiggy beards, rumbly voices; the Elves, whose nobility and beauty is elusive and not quite human. But even these are rather clumsily handled.
He thinks the Black Riders are nothing but spectres, the Orcs never do anything really bad and that the winged steeds of the Nazgûls and the giant spider Shelob are actually quite harmless.
What one misses in all these terrors is any trace of concrete reality.
Wilson admits that the basic idea of having an innocent creature carrying an evil, gradually influential artefact to its evil homeland for its destruction is interesting, although Tolkien fails to make anything out of it.
Wilson concludes with the observation that those who appreciate LOTR are people who "have a lifelong appetite for juvenile trash".
Many years later, Tolkien is still topical. In 1977 Peter Conrad's12 view is that:
Tolkien is, as Cliff Richard said of Elvis, 'a phenomena'. He is interesting not as an artist but as a serendipitous success.
Para-scholarship... camouflages Tolkien's imaginative deficiencies, for although he can invent languages at will... he can't actually write.
Conrad also fails to understand why Tolkien has achieved so much success. He suggests therefore that Tolkien might fulfil a certain need for escapism. However, this is exactly what Tolkien is not doing:
... the context is epic, but the spirit is bureaucratic.
...
Tolkien pleases not because he is arcane and outlandish but because he is an unadventurous defender of mediocrity. Middle-Earth is a suburb; its hobbits are Babbits, homespun, humdrum shopkeepers, lineal descendants of Christina Rossetti's mercantile goblins and Beatrix Potter's tweedy bunnies. ... He is, in a word, kitsch.
The field of literary criticism had so far proved to be male-dominated. Therefore it is interesting to see that Robert M. Adams brings up a subject not mentioned so far:
Bilbo and Frodo are lifelong bachelors... there's only one female hobbit in the books... Apart from this necessary exception, hobbitry is a boy's club.
... Indeed, Tolkien's avoidance of sex is striking; given the mode of romance, it's a perfectly legitimate avoidance, but can't fail to heighten the sense of infantilism in the fantasy.13
The Legend Grows
When LOTR came out in the mid-50s it thus had a mixed reception from the critics. However, in the 60s it was discovered by a completely different audience - young American students. This younger generation was not interested in literary criticism. They accepted the tale completely and a kind of fanaticism developed - paving the way for the Tolkien Societies.
In his last book on Tolkien, Ohlmarks gives an example of this unquestioning readiness to accept everything written in the books. When asking a young man why The Silmarillion is such a great book he is perplexed by the answer: "Because one gets to know so much in it."14
The Tolkien Societies are a world-wide phenomenon, of course biggest in the USA with thousands of societies. Their activities consist mainly of meetings and banquets where the members dress up and take names from the books. They eat, drink, engage in fake swordplay, read poetry, sing and act. In Sweden the "Annual of Arda-research" is published on a yearly basis by the Arda Society. It includes articles such as 'Beowulf - a Work of Art', 'Tolkien's Conception of Evil: An Anthropological Approach', 'Mordor: Empire of Evil or Decline of a Model' and 'The Hero Stereotype and its Modifications in The Lord of the Rings'15
In addition, there are many other things that have been influenced by LOTR: the entire genre of Fantasy which includes books, cartoons, films, role-playing games, etc. Even pop-groups, like Marillion, have borrowed their names from Tolkien.
The impact Tolkien has had on the sub-culture of role playing games cannot be exaggerated. Here, all his races and characters appear, either as they were or in slightly altered forms: hobbits (or halflings), dwarves, elves, ents, orcs and goblins. Names are also adopted from the books and the nine members of the fellowship of the ring stand as a model for adventurous parties - at least one representative from each race. Middle-Earth Role Play is actually based on the very books, and games such as Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer Fantasy Role Play all copy different aspects of Tolkien's subcreation.
________________________________________
2 Tolkien till minne
3 Lines 104-5 from Crist by Cynewulf, here quoted from Carpenter (1978), p. 72
4 Tolkien till minne
5 Tolkien till minne
6 Carpenter (1978) p. 181
7 Tolkien till minne
8 Tolkien till minne, emphasis added
9 Tolkien till minne
10 Roberts (1956)
11 Wilson (1956)
12 Conrad (1977)
13 Adams (1977)
14 Ohlmarks (1982), p 86, my translation.
15 ARDA 1988-1991
15 'Role play' is a narrative story-telling activity, which takes place indoors round a table. Paper, pen and dice are vital ingredients, as well as good imagination. Game sessions usually last 3-6 hours, often much longer. The game involves about 4-6 players, one being the Gamemaster who is the main narrator and controller of everything in the imaginary world; the other players have one role each to play, as warrior, rogue, ranger, magician, etc.
Copyright (c) 1995 Ludvig Grahn
THE SWEDISH INTERPRETER
Twenty Years with Tolkien
In the late 50s the Swedish publishing company AWE Gebers bought the rights toLOTR, and Åke Ohlmarks was suggested as translator. He was already a well-known author and translator of the Eddaic myths, Shakespeare and the Koran, among other works, and was considered an expert on religious history.
When asked, Ohlmarks immediately read the first fifty pages of LOTR but was disappointed. He found it to be a children's story, much like the previous The Hobbit.
...from the first fifty-sixty pages "The Fellowship of the Ring" seemed to be written in the same spirit [i.e. of The Hobbit]: a pure nonsense-fairy-tale to suit the little ones, with an endlessly long account of a boring birthday party... I gave up even before the end of the long-drawn-out chapter about "A Long-expected Party"...17
However, he was talked into reading some more and suddenly he was struck - this was indeed great literature!
His goal was to reproduce the novel in Swedish with not the slightest suggestion of its English origin. Putting all his skill and knowledge into it, he had finished it in 1959. The book was published, the reviews were very flattering and some years later Ohlmarks received an award of 10,000 crowns (approx. 850 pounds) from The Swedish Authors' Foundation.
From now on, Ohlmarks' life was more or less dedicated to Tolkien and LOTR. He began to give lectures on Tolkien and Middle-Earth and was later involved in founding some of the Tolkien Societies in Sweden (e.g. the one in Umeå).
Over the years Ohlmarks has written three books connected with Tolkien. The first came in 1972 and was called Sagan om Tolkien ('The Tolkien Saga'18), which he claimed was the first biography of Tolkien, although it was never officially recognised as such. Six years later, in 1978, came Tolkiens arv ('The Tolkien Inheritance') and in 1982 Tolkien och den svarta magin ('Tolkien and Black Magic').
Sagan om Tolkien consists roughly of half biographical facts on Tolkien and half literary analysis of LOTR. The analysis deals mainly with Tolkien's possible sources for the books, which are indeed, according to Ohlmarks, innumerable.
The elves, for example, are taken from the stories about King Arthur, mainly the Irish tradition. Tolkien's Westernesse is the Avalon of the Arthur myths. Aragorn is a character inspired by Arthur and the name of Aragorn's father, Arathorn, is clearly influenced by the old Germanic form of the word Arthur, Ara-Thorin. Furthermore, Gandalf is of course Merlin, but not only in the role of magician. The elven name of Gandalf is Mithrandir and Ohlmarks sees a resemblance here with Merlin's origin in the Welsh prophet Myddrin. And when it comes to names in general, Ohlmarks provides a long list of names that look alike in LOTR and in the Arthur myths. Here are some examples19:
Balin the dwarf Balin the knight
Dagorlad the battlefield Dagornet the knight
Galadriel Galahad, Galachim
Gildor Gildas
Isildur Isolde
Lorien Lorraine
Mablung Mabon the wizard
Mark Rohan King Mark
Olorin Oleroun
Pelennor King Pellinore
Rohan Rohant the knight
Further, Ohlmarks notes that some of Tolkien's names come from Latin (Númenor, Legolas, Incanus), some from French medieval history (Pippin, Folco, Fredegar, Odo, Lotho), some from Spanish (Drogo, Bilbo, Marcho, Blanco), and some from Greek (Sauron, Erebor, Imladris, Echthelion, Denethor)
Next, he finds similarities between the style of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales and the easygoing jovial style of the hobbits.
One of the major influences, Ohlmarks maintains, is the Beowulf saga. He finds that the monster Grendel in Beowulf in many aspects is Tolkien's Balrog, and that the ways in which the two episodes are narrated are quite similar. Also, the fight between Sam and Shelob resembles the fight with Grendel's mother.
As far as the hero's fights against Balrog and Shelob, and Grendel and his mother respectively are concerned, the similarities between Beowulf's and Tolkien's stories are so great that the accounts of them in The Lord of the Rings are hardly conceivable without regarding the Anglo-Saxon poem as a worthy source of inspiration.20
The dealings Bilbo has with Smaug in The Hobbit resemble another passage inBeowulf.
With references to the work of John Tinker, Ohlmarks shows that the language spoken in Rohan is nothing but pure Old English (Anglo-Saxon). For example, Éo, which often appears in names (Éomer, Éowyn, Éothéod, Éomund, etc.), comes from Anglo-Saxon éoh which means 'horse'. The second elements of the names in the example are also Anglo-Saxon.
From Gothic come the name of the orc Snaga and the ford Tharbads. Other words which might have Gothic influences are balrog, wose, Tauremorna, Rhosgobel. Words beginning with Ga- also have a Gothic sound (Galadriel, Galadrim, Gil-Galad).
Extensive resemblances are also found in the various Eddaic and Old Germanic myths, such as Sigmund the dragonslayer, Völsungarna in the Sämundar-Edda, and Nibelungenlied. Ohlmarks shows point by point how Tolkien must have been inspired by these legends when he wrote LOTR. Also, there is an account of how the events and characters in LOTR correspond with those in Genesis.
However, one must not be misled into thinking that Ohlmarks at this point does not like LOTR. On the contrary, he believes Tolkien to be at times the equal of authors such as Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson and Kipling.21
One year after Ohlmarks' book was published, J. R. R. Tolkien died.
Tolkiens arv (The Tolkien Inheritance) is a collection of bits and pieces related to Ohlmarks' work with LOTR. The book, he says, is an attempt to make the long waiting period for The Silmarillion endurable. In it he tells how he came to translateLOTR, his dealings with Tolkien and his visits to Christopher Tolkien and Rayner Unwin.
Then Ohlmarks gives an account of possible reasons why Christopher Tolkien suddenly felt the need to send Ohlmarks a letter containing threats and insults. Ohlmarks had earlier sent Christopher a copy of a preliminary manuscript in Swedish for a new book - probably the forerunner to this one. However, Christopher did not regard the manuscript as anything but an impertinent attack on himself and his family. As a result of this, Ohlmarks was later completely out of the question when it came to translating The Silmarillion.
In another chapter he is saddened and surprised at Humphrey Carpenter's attack in his biography. Carpenter writes:
...[Tolkien] was much less pleased with a Swedish translation of the book... Not only did he disapprove of much of the actual translation (he had a working knowledge of Swedish) but he was also angered by a foreword to the book inserted by the translator. Tolkien called this foreword 'five pages of impertinent nonsense'... After Tolkien had registered a strong protest, this foreword was withdrawn by the Swedish publishers...22
Ohlmarks was devastated and could not for his life understand the reason for printing this. Firstly, Ohlmarks claimed that he had not interpreted anything, merely pointed out a few obvious facts, such as World War II giving Tolkien inspiration to move on with his story. Secondly, Tolkien had not had 'a working knowledge of Swedish' - at least not 'working' in the sense that he would have been able to pass such judgements on a work in Swedish as he did. Thirdly, the fact that the Swedish publishers, when asked, could not remember having received any protest of that kind from Tolkien, raises the suspicion that this last point is a fabrication on the part of Carpenter, or at least Christopher Tolkien.
What is the real purpose of Christopher Tolkien, via Carpenter's typewriter, emptying a bucket of slops over my head? Is this happening only because I sent him a small well-meant manuscript, or part of it, in a photostat copy in order for him to give his opinion about it, to send word whether he thought I could print it or not? Is it really possible to show greater respect? Had I sent him a finished copy I could probably sympathize with him. But now?23
Curiously, the passage about the Swedish translation was omitted in the Swedish version of Carpenter's biography.
Among many other things, Ohlmarks provides an extensive account of how Tolkien's books and mythology are influenced by or perhaps allegorical about modern and historical Europe. This subject is further examined below.
In Tolkien och den svarta magin (Tolkien and Black Magic), which is dedicated to Edmund Wilson, one of the fiercest anti-Tolkien critics, Ohlmarks begins with the words "Pater peccavi..." (Father, I have sinned...). And truly, Ohlmarks is by now deeply regretful for having spent decades promoting Tolkien in Sweden. He continues with phrases such as "Tolkien's trash", "the damned thing" and "the only too lately deceased old man Ronald Reul..."24. Ohlmarks' new attitude to the books is evident:
The first book [Book 1 of LOTR] is poor rubbish for children and tells almost exclusively of a lengthy, tiresome birthday party among the 'creatures' called hobbits... These hobbits... make pretty boring reading... Tolkien invented his hobbits in a miserably bad fairy-story as early as 1937 ... [LOTR] is the naive folk-tale, painted in black and white, at its worst... 25
The correct usage of the Swedish language was naturally a delicate matter to Ohlmarks.
The old man John Reul was in many respects an odd character and by no means without faults. He believed he had mastered practically every language in the world, including... Swedish.
Sure enough, with the help of dictionaries he could passably spell his way though a Swedish text... But he lacked every sense of the nuances of Swedish words, which did not stop him from tyrannically dictating what everything was going to be called in Swedish...
However, he regarded my independence as an insolent criticism of his omniscience and never forgave me. The fact that I have given nearly forty lectures about him and his work and ... that for twenty years I have done more than anyone else to spread Tolkienism in the whole of the Nordic area did not bother him at all.26
But mostly, Ohlmarks is angry and upset with the Tolkien Societies and a small number of the Swedish ones in particular - the ones whose members had fallen into alchohol abuse and acts of terrorism. What usually began as a pleasant invitation to Mr. and Mrs. Ohlmarks to a happy event only too often ended in nonsensical disputes and general harrassment - the most serious being when Ohlmarks' own house nearly burnt down and his wife had to go to hospital.
In his capacity as Tolkien's representative in Sweden, Ohlmarks also received a number of letters from more or less deranged people, some of them with multiple personality disorders (e. g. being Aragorn, Gandalf and Frodo at the same time).
However, the most grave accusation is the claim that LOTR is essentially the work of another mind than Tolkien's. Ohlmarks still believes that books 2-6 are very good indeed, though not Tolkien's work but probably C. S. Lewis'. This subject will be more closely examined below.
(continued)
________________________________________
17 Ohlmarks (1978), p 5-6, my translation.
18 The book titles are my translations.
19 Ohlmarks (1972), p 54
20 Ohlmarks (1972), p 85, my translation (the Swedish is not absolutely clear here)
21 Ohlmarks (1972), p. 216
22 Carpenter (1978), p. 227-228
23 Ohlmarks (1978), p. 148, my translation
24 Ohlmarks (1982) p. 9, my translation.
25 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 22-24, my translation
26 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 29, my translation
Copyright (c) 1995 Ludvig Grahn
THE SWEDISH INTERPRETER (continued)
Two Incompatible Spirits
How can a man devote twenty years of his life to a cause, and then suddenly change his mind and wish that the source of his work had met with an earlier death? The change came gradually, though. Ohlmarks first expressed a slight irritation in Sagan om Tolkien, then open contempt towards Christopher Tolkien in the next book and, finally, plain rage in the last.
Ohlmarks was infuriated because of the moral breakdown of some of the Swedish Tolkien societies. Some weeks before Tolkien och den svarta magin was released, he commented on it in an interview for a newspaper.
Had I not written it, I could never have looked at myself in a mirror again.
- I was writing in a rage... I felt so terribly disappointed that I had introduced this insanity into Sweden.27
Although he as late as in Tolkiens arv says things like -
I am grateful for having had the opportunity of spreading the word about one of the greatest authors and most creative minds of our time.28
- he says in the interview that he always considered Tolkien to be an incompetent writer.
The books are on a cartoon-level... just like the Phantom and Guran and the Pygmies.
In his outburst in Tolkien och den svarta magin Ohlmarks confirms:
... the cartoon is the only adequate form for children's stories of such low literary quality. I once spoke about JRRT in connection with the Nobel Prize. Forgive me honoured members of the Academy... I was as stupid as the poor serving-hands of the Tolkien societies...29
He was not afraid to speak up, and said he never had been. As to the Tolkien societies he claims in the interview:
Tolkien himself admired Hitler deeply. The societies devote their time to warlike exercises, it is just like the SS-system29
And sure enough, Ohlmarks finds a clue in the name Saruman: SA-rhum-an30 (SA : the German military unit, 'rhum': 'honor' in German).
However, there seems to be no evidence whatsoever for ascribing this position to Tolkien. As a matter of fact, the German translation of The Hobbit was delayed till after the war because German publishers wanted Tolkien to confirm that he was not of Jewish origin. Apparently, this entire notion was appalling to Tolkien and the Germans were rejected.31
From the first contact with Tolkien, Ohlmarks was feeling offended. Tolkien was not entirely satisfied with his translation and most of all, he did not like Ohlmarks' invention of calling hobbits for 'hober' in Swedish. Ohlmarks explains that he patiently answered Tolkien with a letter of seven pages32 in which he listed all the undesirable associations that 'hobbit' and other terms could have in Swedish. Tolkien was forced to yield but wrote to his publisher:
The enclosure... from Almqvist &c. was both puzzling and irritating. A letter in Swedish from fil. dr Åke Ohlmarks, and a huge list (9 pages foolscap) of names in the L. R. which he had altered. I hope that my inadequate knowledge of Swedish... tends to exaggerate the impression I received. The impression remains, nonetheless, that Dr Ohlmarks is a conceited person... [Ohlmarks] lectures me on... the Swedish language and its antipathy to borrowing foreign words (a matter which seems beside the point), a procedure made all the more ridiculous by the language of the letter... thriller-genre being a good specimen of good old pure Swedish.33
Here, Tolkien gives the impression of being overly pedantic. He may be right about the letter containing many loan-words, but this, however, "seems beside the point" as well. It must have been quite clear that Ohlmarks was referring to the translation of LOTR, and not Swedish in general.
A few years later the Swedish version of LOTR appeared. In it, Ohlmarks had included an introduction with biographical notes on Tolkien. Tolkien wrote to his publisher:
Ohlmarks is a very vain man... preferring his own fancy to facts, and very ready to pretend to knowledge which he does not possess. He does not hesitate to attribute to me sentiments and beliefs which I repudiate. Among them a dislike of the University of Leeds... This is impertinent and entirely untrue. If it should come to the knowledge of Leeds... I should make him apologize.34
There seemed to be altogether a lack of chemistry between Tolkien and Ohlmarks. They were at the same time very much alike and yet very different from each other. They were both incredibly learned scholars who were fascinated by the old Norse and Germanic myths and they were both proud, even though neither one of them would have admitted it. Tolkien was known to be offended whenever his work was criticised and C.S. Lewis' remark is quite revealing:
He has only two reactions to criticism. Either he begins the whole work over again from the beginning or else takes no notice at all.35
Ohlmarks' reaction to Christopher and later to the Swedish Tolkien Societies gave evidence of a strong sense of pride, at least as far as his work was concerned.
On the differing side are their personalities. Tolkien was known to be almost timid and shy, talking in a low and grumbling voice. As opposed to this, Ohlmarks was big and noisy (and happily joked about his weight).
Considering this, Ohlmarks' thorough analysis in Sagan om Tolkien must have been far too imprudent and aggressive to suit English, or at least J. R. R. Tolkien's, modesty. For example, Ohlmarks has a theory about the circumstances regarding the invention of the name of one of the hobbit tribes - the Fallohides. Ohlmarks draws a parallel with South Africa and the bushmen who lived in the jungle outside Bloemfontein. Like the hobbits they were of short height and, as the name would later give evidence of, they wore a cloth to hide their genitals - hence phallo-hides36. There is no recorded reaction to this interpretation from Tolkien, but the chances are that it would not have been approving.
Ohlmarks noticed that unfavourable criticism of Tolkien often seems to be based on jealousy - something that he perhaps falls victim to himself. Ohlmarks' rather sour remarks regarding Carpenter (Tolkien's biographer), in Tolkiens arv ochTolkien och den svarta magin reveal at least some degree of jealousy.
By the way, who is this Mr Humphrey Carpenter? ... he is not in Who's Who, not in any literary dictionary whatsoever... He does not seem to have written anything prior to this biography. He has arbitrarily been appointed by Christopher Tolkien ignoring all the more authorative literary biographers and down to the smallest detail he is dependent on his benefactor and employer. To him Christopher has been able to dictate anything at whim and Carpenter has completely accepted it all...37
Further, Ohlmarks' visit to the younger Tolkien, of which an account is given in Tolkiens arv in 197838, resembles Carpenter's visit to the older, described in 197739. Could this be a way of expressing - visualising - the wish of having met Tolkien? In order to use Ohlmarks' own way of finding similes a comparison of the two events is given in the following.
Carpenter is after a short and nervous anticipation greeted at the front door and the first thing he notices is that, to his surprise, Tolkien is under average height. On entering Christopher Tolkien's house Ohlmarks understands that, despite his precautions he is a little early, because he is let in by a moody housekeeper and is left to wait for quite some time. Then, Ohlmarks finds Christopher to be almost two metres tall - height seems to be of some significance here. Both father and son have a steady handshake.
Carpenter is soon led out to the garage which serves as an office. The room is filled with books and sheets of paper and letters. Tolkien is very busy revising LOTR for the next edition. Ohlmarks is soon led into Christopher's study, which is in a total mess, and then after a while into an old rebuilt stable in the backyard in which the material for The Silmarillion is currently under compilation.
Both Ohlmarks and Carpenter sit and listen in awe, taking notes, as their respective Tolkien is talking. However, after a while Ohlmarks realises that Christopher has only limited knowledge of philology, linguistics and phonology whereas Carpenter remains in complete fascination throughout the entire visit. Both visits end in a happy manner: Carpenter is invited back and Ohlmarks is both complimented for his translation and granted a privilege - a preview of the forthcoming The Silmarillion.
Ohlmarks' great misfortune was probably the fact that he never met Tolkien in person. Considering himself to be of an equal kind, not having met Tolkien naturally diminished Ohlmarks' own authority. The 'biography', written one year before Tolkien died, did not include one single exclusive piece of information from Tolkien. In consequence, Ohlmarks' book suffers from a few errors and it was not recognised as the first biography of Tolkien either.
Ohlmarks began as a devoted Tolkien-fan, but over the years he changed and became one of his fiercest critics. The reason for this was not, however, LOTRitself or even Tolkien. It must be ascribed to external causes.
The Accusation of Forgery
The most serious accusation put forward by Ohlmarks is that of forgery. However, he does not believe that this diminishes the standard of LOTR:
the story itself is fascinating and narrated in a way which makes cold shivers go down one's back... 40
Ohlmarks claims that there is a major discrepancy in the narrative style when comparing The Hobbit and Book 1 of LOTR with Books 2-6. He says that, together with a colleague whose name he thinks it best not to reveal, he has found substantial evidence to support this. Consequently, he suspects the major part ofLOTR to be the work of another author.
... because it could definitely not be him [Tolkien]. If it were, the entire academic exercise of "philological determinance of authorship" would be worthless. ... there are fundamental discrepancies in style, vocabulary, syntax, narrative technique, story-telling, visionary power - everything.41
To answer the obvious question of who then is the real author of the major part ofLOTR, Ohlmarks chooses to mention Tolkien's dearest friend at the time, C.S. Lewis. How could Lewis otherwise have been able to give a review of LOTR at such short notice if he was not in fact the actual author?
However, the notion of there being a discrepancy in style between The Hobbit and the different parts of LOTR is not a new one. Robert M. Adams says for example that
... they are very uneven books [The Hobbit and LOTR], both when compared to one another, and in their different parts as well.
The Hobbit, for example, stands well apart from the trilogy.
...
Altogether different is the tone of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. At issue is not a gold-hoard but the survival of "civilisation as we know it,"... 42
Paul H. Kocher43 also clearly sees a difference between the books, even though he refuses to term either one of them as better than the other. He maintains that they are entirely separate types of stories, the one a children's/adult fairy-tale and the other an adult epic saga, and that as such they have very different qualities indeed.
No one seems to dispute that there are differences between The Hobbit andLOTR, and no one seems to question whether Tolkien wrote The Hobbit or not. The real question then, seems to be whether Tolkien wrote all of LOTR or not.
Any evidence to support Ohlmarks' claim has so far failed to see the light and as Åke Ohlmarks passed away a few years ago there seems to be little hope of sharing such knowledge.
One of Ohlmarks' arguments is that while The Hobbit and other such works written before LOTR are of the same poor standard as The Silmarillion, which was published after LOTR, it would be practically impossible to produce a work in between of such a high standard. What seems to escape Ohlmarks here is the fact that The Silmarillion was largely written before even The Hobbit. In this light,LOTR could perhaps be seen as the crowning of a slowly developed literary style.
LOTR was written over a long period of time - about 13 years. Tolkien himself did not know how it was going to end as he wrote it and before it was published he rewrote many parts. The world was at war for five years and authors do change and develop. It is not very complimentary to suggest that an author has no ability whatsoever to vary his style - although complimenting Tolkien was perhaps the least of Ohlmarks' concerns at the end.
It is true that LOTR was not a work unfamiliar to Lewis. Parts of it were on a regular basis read during the Inkling sessions and he was frequently asked by Tolkien to comment on the progress of the story. Tolkien's daughter Priscilla recalls:
Tolkien admitted that without C. S. Lewis the Lord of the Rings would not have been completed.44
To suggest that Lewis would have 'shadow-written' LOTR seems strange, however. The progress of the book is the subject of an enormous amount of correspondence, primarily with Tolkien's sons and publisher, and the idea that each and every one of these letters would hide an elaborate and cunningly devised lie, seems far-fetched, to say the least.
Allegory or Not?
Tolkien repeatedly claimed that there was no such thing as allegory in his work. In a letter to his publisher in 1938, concerning the progress of LOTR, Tolkien says that:
The darkness of the present days has had some effect on it. Though it is not an 'allegory'.45
In another letter, after the publication of LOTR, he writes:
There is no 'symbolism' or conscious allegory in my story. Allegory of the sort 'five wizards=five senses' is wholly foreign to my way of thinking.46
Mark Roberts also dismissed ideas such as that the Ring should represent Atomic Power, or that Sauron would advocate National Socialism or that the real enemy should be industrialism.
It follows that The Lord of the Rings cannot be read as a connected allegory, with a clear message for the modern world.47
However, Ohlmarks counters by producing an extensive amount of work with the aim of proving the opposite. In all three of his books, Ohlmarks touches upon the subject of allegory, becoming more intense in the last one.
According to Ohlmarks, Morgoth is Marx, and among other things he uses theories of sound change to support his claim. He uses the word London as an illustration48. The early pronunciation of London was probably something like /'lo:ndon/, which has later developed to modern /'landn/. In the same manner,Morgoth was pronounced /'mo:goth/ and consequently changed into /'magth/, now spelt Marx. After a long account of how the suffix -we could properly be changed to -in, Ohlmarks points out that the elven lord Lenwe is in fact Lenin! To complete the picture, Sauron is of course Stalin and Mordor is Russia.
Ohlmarks continues: Saruman is Hitler, the Black Riders/Nazgûls are the Gestapo, Isengaard is Berlin (both were destroyed during war), Ortanc is Hitler's Reichskanzlei (also destroyed/bombed). Theoden is marshal Pétain, Rohan is France, Frodo/Aragorn is Churchill, the Shire is Great Britain, Westernesse is USA and Radagast is the environmentalists49.
Ohlmarks often accused Tolkien of having "a bee in his bonnet" about languages and linguistic matters. The same could be said of Ohlmarks and his allegories. He was convinced that if he could spot any allegory in a story, the allegory had to be intentional on the part of the author. Tolkien maintained that there was no intentional allegory, but - of course - applicability.
________________________________________
27 Bielf (1982), my translation.
28 Ohlmarks (1978), p. 14, my translation
29 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 137, my translation
30 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 30
31 Carpenter (1990), p. 37-38
32 Ohlmarks (1978), p. 23. However in Ohlmarks (1982), p 29, the letter is said to be of almost 20 pages.
33 Carpenter (1990), p. 263
34 Carpenter (1990), p. 305
35 Carpenter (1978), p. 149
36 Ohlmarks (1972), p. 14
37 Ohlmarks (1978), p. 144-145, my translation
38 Ohlmarks (1978), p. 51-75
39 Carpenter (1978), p. 11-14
40 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 24, my translation.
41 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 25, my translation.
42 Adams (1977)
43 Kocher (1972), p. 25
44 Tolkien till minne
45 Carpenter (1990), p. 41
46 Carpenter (1990), p. 262
47 Roberts (1956)
48 Ohlmarks (1978), p. 182
49 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 30
Copyright (c) 1995 Ludvig Grahn

OTHER PROBLEMS
Stereotypes and Dualism

The characters of LOTR are said to be perfect stereotypes with little or insignificant psychological depth, and the world divided in two major powers, the good side and the evil.
Mark Roberts writes in his preliminary review of LOTR:
The Lord of Evil is black and ugly, and his followers are bad-mannered and quarrelsome creatures who in general give off a bad smell; they torture their prisoners, and take pleasure in destroying pleasant woodlands and fair buildings. But save for their cruelty in war (...) we are never told exactly in what their wickedness consists. 50
And likewise
The Good are beautiful, intelligent and artistic. They are all craftsmen who make lovely objects, or industrious farmers. ... and their domestic lives, when they are not fighting Evil, are entirely delightful. But save for the chivalrous courage and devotion to duty which they all display (...) there seems to be nothing outstandingly virtuous in their behaviour.
A major problem for Edmund Wilson is the characters, or lack of characters
For the most part such characterisations as Dr. Tolkien is able to contrive are perfectly stereotyped: Frodo the good little Englishman; Samwise, his dog-like servant, who talks lowerclass and respectful, and never deserts his master. These characters... are no characters... .51
He cannot identify himself with, for example, Gandalf
At the end of this long romance, I had still no conception of the wizard Gandalph, who is made to play a cardinal role. I had never been able to visualise him at all.
So, he does not get to know Gandalf, and he does not get to know Sauron either:
... the build-up for him [Sauron] goes on through three volumes. He makes his first, rather promising, appearance as a terrible fire-rimmed yellow eye seen in a water-mirror. But this is as far as we ever get. Once Sauron's realm is invaded, we think we are going to meet him; but he still remains nothing but a burning eye scrutinising all that occurs from the window of a remote dark tower. This might, of course, be made effective; but actually it is not: we never feel Sauron's power.

Not surprisingly, one finds Ohlmarks later also expressing this opinion.
One side was the white, so good and pure and noble that anything better cannot be conceived - while the other side was blacker than the blackest coal, evil personified, cruelty in its every appalling shape, Satan and his devils, the whole blasphemous menagerie. 52
Noreen Hayes and Robert Renshaw maintain however that LOTR does have characters with psychological depth and that there are no dualistic black and white aspects of the conflicts.
... the struggle between Sauron et al. and the Fellowship of the Nine takes place in a pluralistic context, i.e. there are evils instead of "evil" and goods instead of "good".
Neither those forces characterized as good nor those characterized as evil are monolithic or unmixed in nature. Within the fellowship itself Boromir attempts to seize the ring of power.
...
... the dualistic interpretation ignores the careful differentiation of characteristics among the individual good and bad characters. ...
Both Gollum and Sauron are described as evil, yet they are essentially different.53
There are several instances in LOTR which show how terms like 'good' and 'evil' may be altered according to context. Elves and Dwarfs are inherently antagonistic, each regarding the other as the enemy. The Ents regard everyone in possession of an axe (primarily Orcs and Dwarfs) as evil. Saruman illustrates the fact that even the purest can become evil.
Wilson is disappointed that he never meets Sauron. He seems to forget though, that lack of knowledge about evil beings often makes them even more frightening. Avoidance of details might thus be intentional on the part of the author.

The Nature of Evil
Shortly after LOTR was published, Tolkien put down on paper, for personal reasons, some thoughts concerning the book.
In my story I do not deal in Absolute Evil. I do not think there is such a thing, since that is Zero. I do not think that at any rate any 'rational being' is wholly evil... In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible... In The Lord of the Rings the conflict is not basically about 'freedom'... It is about God, and His sole right to divine honour. 54
The greatest problem of all regarding Tolkien's fabulous sub-creation seems to lie with the view of evil. Robert M. Adams is not satisfied with Tolkien's morality:
The exotic visual effects and rich linguistic textures absorb the reader's attention and prevent him from feeling the simplistic poverty of Tolkien's moralism 55
In Tolkien's Middle-Earth we feel that evil exists: pure, raw, unadulterated evil. Apparently, the Dark side is evil simply because it is evil.
However, in the world today not everyone would agree with this notion. Many people do not believe that such a thing as pure evil does exist. On the contrary, the maintenance of such an idea can cause harmful and unexpected things to continue to happen, because the real source is never exposed.
The Swiss psychoanalyst Alice Miller56 has come up with a new understanding of supposed 'evil' human beings. She describes how children are shaped into mass murderers and rapists by society in general and parents or guardians in particular. The principle in this shaping is called Black Education. Ola Lindgren57 shows that vital events concerning the shaping of moral values in The Silmarillion are based on this principle, namely the original notion of evil. As mentioned in the introduction, this essay will not deal with works published after Tolkien's death, but it is in all cases interesting to see that Tolkien's basic view of evil, as presented in the work which he himself regarded as the most important, is influenced by Black Education.
Lindgren highlights two episodes in The Silmarillion. The first has to do with Aulë and his longing for the arrival of Elves and Humans to the world. He cannot contain himself, and thus secretly forestalls Eru's plans and creates his own creatures, the Dwarves, an act which of course does not escape Eru, who is omniscient.
According to Lindgren an example of Black Education is thus becoming visible. Eru is not content with watching Aulë from a distance. He suddenly reveals himself, faces Aulë with the facts and says:
Why hast thou done this? Why dost thou attempt a thing which thou knowest is beyond thy power and thy authority? For thou hast from me as a gift thy own being only, and no more; and therefore the creatures of thy hand and mind can live only by that being, moving when thou thinkest to move them, and if thy thought be elsewhere, standing idle. Is that thy desire? 58
What is Aulë's answer supposed to be? He has been caught red-handed with something forbidden, and he has no means of responding to Eru, since he is completely at the mercy of Eru's power and good will - exactly the way in which a real child is dependent of its parents. He now realises that he has to reject everything that implies that he has a will of his own, since this more than anything else threatens the inner equilibrium of the great father. Aulë, just like the child who has not yet been properly raised, has to pay a high price for the spontaneity and the closeness to his own feelings that has not yet been suppressed. A price that will be paid with a growing lack of self confidence and low amount of self esteem.
Now, Aulë is prepared to kill his Dwarves in order to please his father but Eru, moved by compassion, stops him just in time. Lindgren observes:
It is interesting to see that Aulë's willingness to kill his own beloved creatures corresponds with a fact that Alice Miller and other psychoanalysts have known for a long time, that the child will do anything in order not to lose the love of its parents. The child would rather kill its own feelings than risk losing the love of the parents. 59
This is the core of the work of Alice Miller. As the child expresses feelings of its own, which are in conflict with the parent, the child is accused of wilfulness. This wilfulness is the cause of all evil. It has to be annihilated, at all costs. In the following process, the damage done to the child is irreparable.
Returning to The Silmarillion the Lord of Evil to be, Melkor, is at an early stage found to have this wilfulness60. In a most obstinate manner, he refuses to play the same tune as the other Ainur and he persists in wandering off to the desolate areas of the universe, against Eru's will. As a result of this Melkor is expelled from the 'family' of Eru and Ainur and is doomed to walk the path of loneliness. Melkor's emotional response to this is anger and jealousy; he broods in the darkness of existence and becomes Morgoth, which in our world would be the socially handicapped mass murderer.
Lindgren realises that the use of these moral values may very well be unintentional on the part of Tolkien. This was simply the way things were being done at the time of his own upbringing. To have the moral base of one of the century's greatest epic novels rest on this principle is, however, worrying and deeply regrettable.
Ohlmarks of course, being a religious expert, has something to say about evil too:
According to Tolkien it is thus envy and lust for power that has caused everything evil in the world. The fact that God let Satan thrive and did not nip [evil] in the bud, is one of many inexplicable things about Tolkienism...61
Thus, when attempting to explain the origin of evil Tolkien fails in credibility much in the same way as the Bible does, i. e. with the problem of theodicy. If God/Eru was the only original being and everything else in one way or another came from him, the 'evil' things must also have come from him. Therefore God/Eru cannot be altogether good. If, on the other hand, God/Eru is altogether good, then he could not be all-powerful nor the first original being since evil things co-exist with him and not being all-powerful nor the original being does not make a very impressive god.
________________________________________
50 Roberts (1955), emphasis added.
51 Wilson (1956)
52 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 23-24, my translation.
53 Hays and Renshaw (1967)
54 Carpenter (1990), p. 243
55 Adams (1977)
56 Miller (1991)
57 Lindgren (1991)
58 Tolkien (1994), p. 49
59 Lindgren (1991). My translation, emphasis added.
60 Tolkien (1994), p. 15-24
61 Ohlmarks (1982), p. 33, my translation
Copyright (c) 1995 Ludvig Grahn


BIBLIOGRAPHY
Primary Sources
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit London: HarperCollinsPublishers(1993)
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings London, BCA (1991)
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Silmarillion London: HarperCollinsPublishers (1994)
Secondary Sources
ARDA 1988-1991, The Arda-Society/Forodrim (1994)
Carpenter, Humphrey J. R. R. Tolkien A Biography London: Unwin Paperbacks (1978)
Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien London: Unwin Paperbacks (1990)
Kocher, Paul H. TOLKIENS SAGOVÄRLD En vägledning Stockholm: Norstedts Förlag (1989)
Miller, Alice I begynnelsen var uppfostran Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand (1991)
Ohlmarks, Åke Sagan om Tolkien Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell Förlag AB (1972)
Ohlmarks, Åke Tolkiens arv Bokförlaget PLUS (1978)
Ohlmarks, Åke Tolkien och den svarta magin Sjöstrands Förlag AB (1982)
Transcripts from a television programme on Tolkien, Tolkien till minne (prod.nr. 10-92/2700, broadcast 29 Jan 1993, Kanal 1, 20.00)
Essays and articles
A big help in selecting international articles was Richard West's Tolkien Criticism: An Annotated Checklist (The Kent State University Press, 1981)
Adams, R.M. 'The Hobbit Habit' New York Review of Books, 24: 22-24 (1977)
Allen, Bruce 'At the Creation' Saturday Review/World, 6/15/74: 25-27 (1974)
Bielf, Lars 'Tolkien var en usel författare' Aftonbladet 20 Mars 1982 (1982)
Conrad, Peter 'The Babbit' New Statesman, Sep 23: 408-409 (1977)
Hayes, Noreen and Robert Renshaw 'Of Hobbits: The Lord of the Rings' Critique, 9: 58-66(1967)
Lindberg, Ola 'Tolkien och den svarta pedagogiken' Fenix 3,9,91/92 p. 142-159 (1991?)
Roberts, Mark 'Adventure in English' Essays in Criticism, 6: 450-459 (1956)
Roberts, Mark 'The Saga of Middle Earth' The Times Literary Supplement, Nov. 25: 704 (1955)
Wilson, Edmund 'Oo, Those Awful Orcs!' The Bit between My Teeth London: W. H. Allen & Co, p. 326-332 (1956)
Copyright (c) 1995 Ludvig Grahn
[FÖREGÅENDE] [INNEHÅLL]


The Ohlmarks's case coda

The Swedish translation of the Lord of the Rings is very bad. If is full of errors. Some are very large. Tolkien did not like the translation (or Ohlmarks) and I and many others in Sweden hope that a new translation will be made.

Example of an error: Instead of Eowyn, Merry kills the Which-King with the sword between the crown and the body! He wrote he instead of she.

Here are wome examples of what Tolkien thought about the Swedish translator and his translation of the Lord of the Rings:

Tolkien wrote: "Ohlmarks is a very vain man (as I discovered in our correspondence), preferring his own fancy to facts, and very ready to pretend to knowledge which he does not possess."
Tolkien about Ohlmarks and the translation:

"Sweden. The enclosure that you brought from Almqvist &c. was both puzzling and irritating. A letter in Swedish from fil. dr. Åke Ohlmarks, and a huge list (9 pages foolscap) of names in the L.R. which he had altered. I hope that my inadequate knowledge of Swedish - no better than my kn. of Dutch, but I possess a v. much better Dutch dictionary! - tends to exaggerate the impression I received. The impression remains, nonetheless, that Dr Ohlmarks is a conceited person, less competent than charming Max Schuchart, though he thinks much better of himself. In the course of his letter he lectures me on the character of the Swedish language and its antipathy to borrowing foreign words (a matter which seems beside the point), a procedure made all the more ridiculous by the language of his letter, more than 1/3 of which consists of 'loan-words' from German, French and Latin: thriller-genre being a good specimen of good old pure Swedish.
I find this procedure puzzling, because the letter and the list seem totally pointless unless my opinion and criticism is invited. But if this is its object, then surely the timing is both unpractical and impolite, presented together with a pistol: 'we are going to start the composition now'. Neither is my convenience consulted: the communication comes out of the blue in the second most busy academic week of the year. I have had to sit up far into the night even to survey the list. Conceding the legitimacy or necessity of translation (which I do not, except in a limited degree), the translation does not seem to me to exhibit much skill, and contains a fair number of positive errors.* Even if excusable, in view of the difficulty of the material, I think this regrettable, & they could have been avoided by earlier consultation. It seems to me fairly evident that Dr. O. has stumbled along dealing with things as he came to them, without much care for the future or co-ordination, and that he has not read the Appendices at all, in watch he would have found many answers .....
I do hope that it can be arranged, if and when any further translations are negotiated, that I should be consulted at an early stage - without frightening a shy bird off the eggs. After all, I charge nothing, and can save a translator a good deal of time and puzzling; and if consulted at an early stage my remarks will appear far less in the light of peevish criticisms.

*For example: Ford of Bruinen = Björnavad! Archet = Gamleby (Old Village) (a mere guess, I suppose, from 'archaic'?) Mountains of Lune (Ered Luin) = Månbergen (Moon-mountains); Gladden Fields (in spite of descr. in 1. 62) = Ljusa slätterna (Bright plains), & so on."

Tolkien about another part of the translation:

"In translating vol. i p.12, 'they seldom wore shoes, since their feet had though leathery soles and were clad in a thick curling hair, much like the hair of their heads', he read the text as'. . . their feet had thick feathery soles, and they were clad in a thick curling hair. . .'and so produces in his Introduction a picture of hobbits whose outdoor garb was of matted hair, while under their feet they had solid feather-cushion treads! This is made doubly absurd, since it occurs in a passage where he is suggesting that the hobbits are modelled on the inhabitants of the idyllic suburb of Headington."

In addition, Ohlmarks also created his own stories about tolkien's life. He also thought that he knew the meaning of things that he had no sufficent knowledge about.

Ohlmarks about Tolkien: "There are reminiscences of journeys on foot in his own youth up into the Welsh border-region."

Tolkien answered: "As Bilbo said to the dwarves, he seems to know as much of my private pantries as I do myself. Or pretends to. I never walked in Wales or the marches in my youth. Why should I be made an object of fiction while still alive?"

Ohlmarks: "The professor began by telling tales about it [Middle-earth] to his children, then to his grandchildren; and they were fascinated and clamoured for more and still more. One can clearly see before one the fireside evenings in the peaceful villa out at Sandfield Road in Headington near Oxford .... with the Barrowdowns or Headington Hills in the rear and the Misty Mountains or the 560 feet high Shotover in the background."

Tolkien answered: "!!This is such outrageous nonsense that I should suspect mockery, if I did not observe that O. is ever ready to assume intimate knowledge that he has not got. I have only two grandchildren. One 18 who first heard of the books 5 years ago. The other is 2. The book was written before I moved to Headington, which has no hills, but is on a shoulder (as it were) of Shotover."

Ohlmarks: "One of his most important writings, published in 1953, also treats of another famous homecoming, 'The Homecoming of Beorhtnot, [sic] Beorthhelm's son.'"

Tolkien: "Coming home dead without a head (as Beorhtnoth did) is not very delightful. But this is spoof. O. knows nothing about Beorhtnoth, or his homecoming (never mentioned till I wrote a poem about it) and he has not seen the poem. I do not blame him, except for writing as if he knew."

My favourite:

Ohlmarks: "The Ring is in a certain way 'der Nibelungen Ring'. . . . "
Tolkien: "Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases."

segunda-feira, 14 de setembro de 2009

"Mad" Elves and "elusive beauty": some Celtic strands of Tolkien's mythology


[1]
Folklore, August, 2006 by Dimitra FimiAbstract
Contrary to Tolkien's refutation of "Celtic things" as a source for his own mythology, this article attempts to show how his work has been inspired by Celtic folklore and myth. The article is not just a source study. It concentrates on one main example from Tolkien's early literary writings that betrays a Celtic influence. At the same time it discusses Tolkien's complex attitude towards "things Celtic" within the context of his strong sense of English identity. Finally, it seeks to explain Tolkien's derogatory comments on Celtic material as a result of popular ideas of "Celticity."

IntroductionIn November 1937, after the success of The Hobbit, Tolkien sent to his publishers "The Silmarillion," [2] the myths and legends of the Elves that he had been working on for years, with a possible view to publication. In turn, they passed the manuscript to one of the firm's outside readers, Edward Crankshaw, for evaluation. He reported unfavourably on it, part of the reason being its "eyes-plitting Celtic names." He also claimed that "It has something of that mad, bright-eyed beauty that perplexes all Anglo-Saxons in face of Celtic art" (Carpenter 1981, 27). Tolkien's response to his publishers shows that he was rather annoyed by such a characterisation of his work. He defended his nomenclature, by saying: "I am sorry the names split his eyes--personally I believe ... they are good, and a large part of the effect." He also added quite angrily:
Needless to say they are not Celtic! Neither are the tales. I do
know Celtic things (many in their original languages Irish and
Welsh), and feel for them a certain distaste: largely for their
fundamental unreason. They have bright colour, but are like a
broken stained glass window reassembled without design. They are in
fact 'mad' as your reader says--but I don't believe I am
(Carpenter 1981, 26).

Tolkien's reaction to "things Celtic" being identified as possible sources for his own mythology seems rather over-emotional. In another letter written almost twenty years later, however, Tolkien commented on his "invented language" for the Grey Elves, namely Sindarin (the Elvish language most prominently featuring in The Lord of the Rings), and explained how it was "deliberately devised to give it a linguistic character very like (though not identical with) British-Welsh." He added that one of the reasons for modelling this language upon Welsh was "because it seems to fit the rather 'Celtic' type of legends and stories told of its speakers" (Carpenter 1981, 176).


These two contradictory statements seem to summarise Tolkien's complex attitude towards things Celtic. His strong refutation of Celtic material as a source of, or influence on, his literature might not appear to be so strange if one takes into account his own special area of academic expertise, and his character and "mission" as a writer. Tolkien was an expert on Anglo-Saxon philology, with a strong sense of English identity that he often associated with Britain's Anglo-Saxon past. At the same time he had started writing his stories of the Elves in an effort to create a "mythology for England," England being understood as opposed to Britain. On the other hand, however, as the letter to his publishers quoted earlier also suggests, Tolkien was far from ignorant about "things Celtic" and he later described his stories of the Grey Elves as being of a "Celtic type." This love-hate relationship with "things Celtic" has made Tolkien's mythology of Middle-earth more complex and more attractive.



"I do know Celtic things": Tolkien and Celtic Studies
Tolkien had nourished an attraction for the Welsh language and a fascination with the stories of King Arthur since childhood. It might have been his school friend G. B. Smith, however, an admirer of the "Mabinogion" and of the Arthurian legend--particularly its Welsh origins--who triggered his interest in "things Celtic" in a more general sense.




Tolkien's first copy of Pedeir Keinc y Mabinogi was bequeathed to him by Smith, who died in the Great War (Garth 2003, 236). During the period 1920-25 Tolkien and his colleague E. V. Gordon worked on the edition of the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which was finally published in 1925. The editing of Sir Gawain must have enhanced Tolkien's interest in Celtic studies, since--according to the fashion of the time--it included in its introduction an elaborate tracing of the Arthurian story to its older analogues in French as well as in Celtic material (Tolkien and Gordon 1925, xi-xvii).
During the 1930s, Tolkien wrote an appendix for the report on the excavation of the Lydney Park Site, in Gloucestershire. The appendix concerned the name "Nodens," found in inscriptions at the site, revealing the cult of a Celtic god in the post-Roman and pre-Anglo-Saxon period. Tolkien analysed the name in detail in terms of its philological, mythological and literary connotations, and attempted to reconstruct the "image" of the god, mainly by associating him with the Irish deity Nuadu (Tolkien 1932). Finally, Tolkien had at least an awareness of contemporary Celtic folklore, especially the fairy lore of Ireland and Wales. In his writings he has referred to the "daoine-sithe," or Shee-folk, and the "tylwyth teg," which he rendered as "Fair Family" and "beautiful kindred" (Tolkien 1983a, 111 and 113; 1975, 165).




In terms of the Celtic languages, Tolkien's knowledge and appreciation for Welsh is well known. He had famously said in an interview:
Welsh has always attracted me, in sight and sound more than any
other, even since the first time I saw it on coal trucks, I always
wanted to know what it was about ... (Tolkien 1965). [3]
As an undergraduate in Oxford, Tolkien was urged by the renowned Germanic philologist Joseph Wright to "go in for Celtic, lad; there's money in it." He did not become a Celtic philologist, but he ended up spending all the money of the only prize he ever won while in Oxford to buy the Welsh Grammar of Sir John Morris-Jones (1913), and started studying the language on his own (Tolkien 1983a, 192; Carpenter 1981, 320 and 250). He never learned modern Welsh well enough to be able to speak it, but his knowledge of medieval Welsh was such that he was able to teach it and to read parts of the "Mabinogion" in the original (Carpenter 1981, 12-13). Tolkien was also the first speaker of the prestigious O'Donnell lectures, which were established to discuss the Celtic element in the English language, in which he enthusiastically declared that "Welsh is beautiful," and he revealed those sounds of the Welsh language that attracted him most (Tolkien 1983a, 189-94). The main way in which Welsh affected Tolkien's work was the use of its phonetic structure to create one of his invented languages, the language of the Grey-elves, Sindarin. Tolkien seems, however, to have struggled hard with Irish, which he never succeeded in mastering, which is probably the reason why he declared the Irish language to be "wholly unattractive" (Carpenter 1981, 289, 385 and 134).
Tolkien's interest in, and engagement with, Celtic studies sometimes went beyond what would be expected of an Oxford don specialising in Old English. Especially when it comes to the Celtic archaeology publication mentioned earlier, one could reasonably ask why a Professor of Anglo-Saxon was asked to contribute to it and not, for example, John Fraser, the Jesus Professor of Celtic in Oxford during that period. This involvement with "Celtic things" demonstrates, then, an individual, personal interest of Tolkien's in Celtic studies. In his unfinished work "The Notion Club Papers," written during 1945-6 and published posthumously in the ninth volume of the History of Middle-earth series, we find Professor Michael George Ramer, who is a:
Professor of Finno-Ugric Philology; but better known as a writer of
romances. His parents returned to England when he was four; but he
spent a good deal of time in Finland and Hungary between 1956 and
1968. [Among his interests are Celtic languages and antiquities]
(Tolkien 1992, 159).
This character echoes Tolkien's self in many respects: his specialty in philology (although here it is Finno-Ugric, a family of languages that produced Finnish that Tolkien admired and used in Quenya, the other main Elvish language he created), his having been born abroad and returning to England when very young--exactly like Tolkien--and his being more famous as a writer of romances than as an academic, again very like Tolkien himself. The not-too-obvious link is the "interest in Celtic languages and antiquities," which, however, sounds much more convincing if one takes into account Tolkien's involvement with Celtic archaeology. Indeed, when at some point Tolkien had certain members of the Inklings in mind as "models" for the characters in "The Notion Club Papers," he tentatively identified Ramer with himself (Shippey 1992, 150).



Finally, apart from his literature associated with the Middle-earth saga, Tolkien also wrote a poem and two unfinished works on Celtic subject matter. He started writing all three of these during the 1930s. The first one, which was finally finished and published much later in the Welsh Review, is "The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun," a poem inspired by the folklore of Brittany, having as one of its main characters a Corrigan (Tolkien 1945). The two unfinished works are "The Fall of Arthur" and "The King of the Green Dozen." The former is described by Carpenter as Tolkien's own version of the Morte d'Arthur, in which "the king and Gawain go to war in 'Saxon lands' but are summoned home by news of Mordred's treachery" (Carpenter 1977, 168). Tolkien refers to the latter work, "The King of the Green Dozen," in a letter written in 1938, where he describes it as "an unfinished pseudo-Celtic fairy-story of a mildly satirical order" (Carpenter 1981, 40). The editorial notes to the letter add that the story, which is set in Wales and "parodies the 'high' style of narrative," is about the King of Iwerddon "whose hair and the hair of his descendant's twelve sons is coloured green" (Carpenter 1981, 436).
The "Soil of Britain": English versus Celtic Identity
As already mentioned briefly, Tolkien's reaction to "things Celtic" might have something to do with the contrast of English and British identities in his writing. Tolkien's early nationalistic project to create "a mythology for England," [4] and thus restore the reputation of his country, which lacked a proper mythology, is familiar to Tolkien scholars. In a much later letter to Milton Waldman he expressed this early plan of his by writing:
I was from early days grieved by the poverty of my own beloved
country: it had no stories of its own (bound up with its tongue
and soil) ... There was Greek, and Celtic, and Romance, Germanic,
Scandinavian, and Finnish ... but nothing English, save
impoverished chap-book stuff. Of course there was and is the
Arthurian world, but powerful as it is, it is imperfectly
naturalized, associated with the soil of Britain but not with
English; and does not replace what I felt to be missing ... Do
not laugh! But once upon a time ... I had in mind to make a body of
more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and
cosmogonic, to the level of romantic fairy-story ... which I would
dedicate simply to: to England; to my country ... The cycle should
be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds
and hands, wielding paint and music and drama (Carpenter 1981, 144).
Tom Shippey has demonstrated brilliantly how Tolkien's early plan to create a national mythology for England fits in with nineteenth-century "reconstructions" of other Northern European mythologies for similar nationalistic projects, such as the Grimm brothers' collection of fairy-tales in Germany and Jacob Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie, the efforts of Nikolai and Sven Grundtvig to revive the Danish ballads, and, most importantly, Elias Lonnrot's creation of a Finnish national epic, the Kalevala (Shippey 2001, x-xvi; 2002). In the case of England, however, the question of national identity is far more complicated than the rest of Northern Europe.


A British "national identity" emerged during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which included Scotland and Wales and, from the nineteenth century, Ireland. This was mainly due to the formation and successful expansion of the British Empire, which reached its climax during these years (Colley 1992, 144; Kumar 2003, 170-2). Of course, in the "Celtic" parts of Britain a sense of separate national and cultural heritage was maintained, but since the dominant and leading role of the English in the creation and maintenance of the Empire was never challenged or contested until the Irish successfully did so in the early twentieth century, there was no need for a specifically English national identity to emerge (Colley 1992, 53; Kumar 2003, 156 and 79). It has been argued, however, that there was a moment of pure English nationalism, which was milder than the equivalent ones of the rest of Europe, but was still based on the same principles: association of the modern nation with its glorious past, and praise of its primeval virtues (Kumar 2003, 202-17). This was the "invention" of Anglo-Saxonism, a movement that would refer to the "Golden Age" of the Anglo-Saxons before the Norman invasion, a period when the true English spirit of freedom and democratic institutions was still alive and thriving (Horsman 1976; Melman 1991; Kumar 2003, 204-7). It was mainly during the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth that Anglo-Saxonism became a national myth (Melman 1991, 578-9), and it is not at all accidental that this happened during a period when the British Empire was slowly starting to move towards the stage of decline.
Tolkien was not immune to the Anglo-Saxon pride syndrome. He was proud to be an Anglo-Saxon by descent and a student of his ancestors' noble language (Carpenter 1981, 56, 102, 108 and 340). Thus, his attempt to create an English mythology can be interpreted and justified. He started writing at a time when the Anglo-Saxons had been rediscovered and praised as the ancestors of modern England. He found scant mythological material from the literature of this "great people," however, in contrast with the Welsh, Scots, and Irish, who already had an established "Celtic" heritage and mythology. Indeed, it seems that the rising Welsh and Scottish cultural nationalism during the same period was an additional provocation that made English nationalism necessary (Kumar 2003, 200). Tolkien felt the lack of a mythology as an important deficiency for his own country and its national identity, and what he set out to do is exactly what Elias Lonnrot had done before in Finland--he undertook the task of the middle-class intellectual to provide his country with a mythology.
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The much quoted statement of Tolkien's mentioned earlier is very significant for the Celtic versus English contrast in his early work. Tolkien did not equate "the land of Britain" with "the land of England." Nowadays, the term "Celtic" itself has been called into question, but in Tolkien's time the early history of Britain was seen as a succession of invasions, including that of the Celts (who were romanticised and considered as a coherent people with a common language and culture), followed by the Anglo-Saxons later on. [5] For Tolkien, the Anglo-Saxons were the true ancestors of the English and he was as much opposed to the cultural heritage of the Celts as to that of the Normans. This is why he also thought that the Arthurian cycle did not qualify for the title of "English mythology": it was not just its use by the Normans and its French sources, but its ultimate origin in Welsh legend and myth, rather than in Anglo-Saxon culture. Indeed, in "The Book of Lost Tales," which is the earliest form of what today we know as The Silmarillion, his mythology is firmly associated with England's Anglo-Saxon past.




In "The Book of Lost Tales," one of the main characters, a traveller to the Island of the Elves, who later reports the true tradition of the Elves to Men, is a fictional Anglo-Saxon. In the earlier version his name is Eriol, he comes from the lands whence the Anglo-Saxons came to England. Later, his sons Hengest, Horsa and Heorrenda conquer the island, and befriend the Elves, and the island becomes England (Tolkien 1984, 278-94). In the second version he is called AElfwine. He is an Anglo-Saxon of eleventh-century Wessex, sailing from England to the island of the Elves (in some versions he is even driven by the Norman Yoke). He finds out that the Elves used to inhabit England but left it because of their longing for the West, and they still speak the Old English language (Tolkien 1984, 300-10). [6] Central to the whole conception is the contrast between the English and Celtic tradition, and Eriol/AElfwine is a key character in this antagonistic attitude, since Tolkien claims that it is from him that "the Engle (English) have the true tradition of the fairies, of whom the Iras (Irish) and the Wealas (Welsh) tell garbled things" (Tolkien 1984, 290). Thus, he distinguishes his Elves and fairies from the equivalent creatures found in Celtic mythology, and at the same time claims the true tradition as being exclusively English.
This last statement by Tolkien might also show some anxiety to lay claim to a specifically English fairy lore that was distinct from that of the Irish, who maintained that their fairies were more genuine and rooted in oral tradition. Folklore, and especially that incorporating ideas about the fairy otherworld (the sidhe), played an important role in the Anglo-Irish literary revival of W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and others. Purkiss maintains, rightly or wrongly, that the Irish revivalists succeeded in linking the fairies and fairy lore to Irish national and cultural identity to such an extent that "fairies and folklore became an essential part of Irishness" (2000, 294). Yeats defended the authenticity of the Irish fairies against the English ones, claiming that the former were unaffected by literary treatments and romantic interpretations, something that Scott had done nearly a century before for the Scottish fairies; while Chesterton's defensive approach, rebuking Yeats, who "reads into Elfland all the righteous insurrection of his own race" (Beddoe 1997, 31; Chesterton 1908), shows the extent of the national conflict this situation could produce. Bown might not be exaggerating when she commented that at that period "at its most extreme, the dialogue about Irish home rule could become an argument about who had the better fairies: England or Ireland" (2001, 4). Tolkien's reaction to this was to contrast his fairies and those of Celtic tradition sharply, and even to insist upon the authenticity of his own mythology against the Celtic fairy-lore. This attitude of envy towards the Celtic fairies is also present in his later writings, especially in his essay "On Fairy-Stories," where he discusses how the English fairy was heavily influenced by its Celtic and other analogues (Tolkien 1983a, 111).




The Earliest Loan: The Story of the Noldor and the Tuatha De Danann
Nonetheless, "things Celtic" still crept into Tolkien's Middle-earth literature, where they were mainly associated with the Elves and Valinor. For anyone familiar with medieval Irish literature, there is a striking similarity between the Noldor, the Elves that rebelled against the Valar and abandoned Valinor to return to Middle-earth, and the Tuatha De Danann, the semi-divine creatures of Irish mythology and ultimately of Irish folklore. Tyler (1976) was probably the first to point out this similarity, but he was writing a popular book and made some errors, interpreting the name Tuatha De Danann as the "People of Don," rather than the accepted "The People of the Goddess Danu" (O hOgain 1990, 296) and stating that the Fir Bolg were the people that finally defeated them, instead of the Sons of Mil (Tyler 1976, 179). [7] Apart from Tyler, Gunnell has also referred epigrammatically to the remarkable parallel between the Tuatha De Danann and Tolkien's Noldor, suggesting that there should be more careful examination of the Irish associations of Tolkien's work (Gunnell 2002).
The story of the Tuatha De Danann is found in the pseudo-historical Lebor Gabdla Erenn ("The Book of Invasions of Ireland"), which recounts the successive invasions of Ireland by different semi-divine or mythical peoples. The Tuatha De Danann are the penultimate invaders before the Sons of Mil, the latter being considered to be the historical ancestors of the Irish people (O hOgain 1990, 296). The story of the invasion of Ireland by the Tuatha De Danann can be summarised as follows. The Tuatha De Danann were the progeny of Neimheadh (one of the previous races that had invaded and occupied Ireland but had eventually fled it) and they came from the northern islands of the world, although in some versions they are said to have come from Greece. It is in these islands that they learned "druidry, and prophecy and magic," and it was not known whether they were really demons or men. They came to Ireland (while fleeing from the Philistines, according to one account) led by their king, Nuadhu, and they demanded from the Fir Bolg (the previous race that had invaded Ireland) a "battle of kingship." One of the versions adds that they were justified in invading Ireland because it was theirs by right of heredity. The manner in which they arrived in Ireland is dealt with in two narratives. The first states that they came in dark clouds through the air "by might of druidry."




The second is a euhemerised version of the first, according to which the Tuatha De Danann arrived in ships, which they subsequently burned. The smoke from the burned ships probably gave rise to the idea that they arrived in clouds.




The reason for burning their ships was that they did not want them to be stolen by the Fomheire (another race of "demons" that had been taking over Ireland from time to time). In addition, the Tuatha De Danann did not want to have the option of setting sail from Ireland in the event of their being defeated by the Fir Bolg. After landing in Ireland they caused an eclipse of the sun for three days and nights. Then, the First Battle of Moytirra was fought against the Fir Bolg, during which many of the latter were killed. Although the Tuatha De Danann were victorious, they also suffered many casualties, including the loss of Nuadhu's arm. They then took the kingship of Ireland and when, much later, they were themselves overthrown by the Sons of Mil, they were routed to the sea. [8]

In Tolkien's story of "The Flight of the Noldor" included in The Silmarillion, we see the most gifted of the Elves abandoning the holy island of Valinor, where they had been brought by the Gods and where their intellect and skills had been enriched. They steal the ships of Teleri, by committing the sinful act of kin slaying, and they use them to sail to Middle-earth. They subsequently burn their ships upon arrival to prevent other Elves from following them to Middle-earth, and they fight the Battle-under-Stars against the evil forces, which takes place in starlight since the Sun and Moon have not yet been created by the Gods. Finally, one of their leaders is captured in the battle, and left to be tortured by hanging from his hand, which he finally has to sacrifice in order to be released from captivity (Tolkien 1977, 79-80 and 106-13).

The parallels of these two brief outlines of the invasion of the Tuatha De Danann in Ireland and the arrival of the Noldor in Middle-earth are remarkable. First, the Tuatha De Danann are not clearly defined as "demons" or men, but appear as semi-divine beings. This can be compared with the nature of the Elves, who are inferior to the Valar, the "gods," but superior to men. Significantly, Cross and Slover refer to the Tuatha De Danann as "large, strong, and beautiful beings who mingled with mortals and yet remained superior to them" (1969, 1), a description that could perfectly fit Tolkien's Elves. The Tuatha De Danann are also described as craftsmen, warriors, poets and magicians, and they acquired these skills in the northern islands of the world. This is paralleled by Tolkien's High-Elves, who learn arts and crafts from the Valar while being in Valinor, the island of the "gods" in the West. This is what ultimately differentiates the High-Elves from the Grey Elves, who never saw the light of Valinor. Additionally, as previously mentioned, it is admitted in the "Book of Invasions" that going to Ireland was a right by heredity for the Tuatha De Danann, and the same is also implied by the Noldor's flight to Middle-earth, as, in Feanor's words, they should "return to our home" (Tolkien 1977, 83).


Perhaps the most striking similarity is, however, the burning of the ships of the Tuatha De Danann and the Noldor upon their arrival in Ireland and Middle-earth, respectively. The reason why the Noldor burned their ships is slightly different from that of the Tuatha De Danann. The former burned their ships by Feanor's command, in order not to allow the rest of the Noldor to pass to Middle-earth, thus leaving the domination of the land to Feanor's kindred. The determination of the Tuatha De Danann, however, not to leave Ireland even if defeated by the Fir Bolg corresponds also to the determination of the rest of the Noldor to reach Middle-earth, even by crossing the deadly ices of Helcaraxe (Tolkien 1977, 90). The first battle of Moytirra can be compared with the Battle-under-Stars ("Dagor-nuin-Giliath"), where Feanor's army defeated Morgoth's orcs, while the eclipse of the sun is equivalent to the non-existence of Sun and Moon in Middle-earth until the coming of the rest of the Noldor through the ices, which happened later than the end of the battle (Tolkien 1977, 106 and 108-9). Finally, the loss of Nuadhu's arm in the first battle of Moytirra is paralleled by the loss of Maedhros's hand, which Fingon had to cut above the wrist to release him from Morgoth's prison (Tolkien 1977, 110). Maedhros may not be the original king of the Noldor, but he is the first son of Feanor, and the natural next leader of his kindred.



It is not only the invasion and first battle of the Tuatha De Danann in Ireland, however, that can be claimed to be equivalent to the arrival of the Noldor to Middle-earth. The final defeat of the Tuatha De Danann by the Sons of Mil, and their subsequent agreement to go into exile, a number of them across the sea, is also significant. O hOgain refers in detail to the agreement of the Tuatha De Danann to dwell underground, in ancient barrows and cairns, and to their alternative portrayal as living in "idyllic overseas realms, such as Magh Meall (the 'Delightful Plain') or Eamhain Ablach ('the Region of Apples')" (1990, 408-9). This corresponds to the fact that the Elves do return ultimately to Valinor across the sea, the last Elves being engaged in this process towards the end of the plot of The Lord of the Rings. It is also intriguing that the Tuatha De Danann finally came to be transformed into the Irish fairies of folklore in popular imagination (O hOgain 1990, 185; Gunnell 2002), a view also referred to by popular folklorists of the Anglo-Irish revival such as W. B. Yeats (1957, 3). This idea of the old Celtic deities becoming the "little people" of folklore is also reflected in Tolkien's Elves, especially in his early work. In "The Book of Lost Tales," the domination of Men leads to the "fading" of the Elves, and to their becoming diminutive and transparent (Tolkien 1984, 281, 283). This idea seems to be still valid as late as The Lord of the Rings, when Galadriel reflects on the fate of the Elves after the destruction of the one Ring. She tells Frodo that if his mission succeeds, then "our power is diminished, and Lothlorien will fade, and the tides of Time will sweep it away. We must depart into the West, or dwindle to a rustic folk of dell and cave, slowly to forget and to be forgotten" (Tolkien 1993a, 474).

The story of the Noldor as already outlined and as presented in the published Silmarillion went through a few stages before it evolved into that final form. Christopher Tolkien, by undertaking the colossal task of editing and publishing his father's manuscripts concerning his mythology, has given the students of Tolkien's work the opportunity to trace stories and motifs from their first appearance in Tolkien's legendarium until their final development. The story of the rebellion of the Noldor (then called the Gnomes) and their departure from Valinor to return to Middle-earth is already present in "The Book of Lost Tales," the earliest form of the mythology, written between 1916 and 1922, and its main elements are already there: Feanor urges the Gnomes to follow him back to Middle-earth to regain the Silmarils that belong to them, the Sun and the Moon are made by the gods subsequent to their departure, and the Gnomes fight their first battle with the Orcs as soon as they land. In this first version, however, the Gnomes do not use the ships to cross the sea but abandon them, setting fire to some of them, and get to Middle-earth by crossing the ices of Helkarakse (sic), while Maedhros (then spelled Maidros) is captured by Morgoth and sent back maimed, although the nature of his torture and maiming are not described (Tolkien 1983b, 162, 174-95 and 237-8).



In "The Lay of the Children of Hurin," written between 1920 and 1925, the episode of Maidros's (sic) hanging from his arm and the subsequent loss of his hand was added (Tolkien 1985, 222), while in only one prose fragment written a little later is the burning of the ships explained as the result of the Gnomes' repentance (Tolkien 1986, 9). By the late 1920s, Tolkien had written the earliest "Silmarillion," which he referred to as the "Sketch" of the mythology, where the main elements of the later story appear fully shaped, and only minor details were added to it in later texts (Tolkien 1986, 18, 22-3 and 52). [9]


Apart from these impressive similarities with the history and fate of the Noldor, the Tuatha De Danann and the whole story recounted in "The Book of Invasions" feature elsewhere in Tolkien's legendarium also. In "The Book of Lost Tales," the land of England, called Luthany, a name that Tolkien borrowed from the Catholic mystic poet Francis Thompson, is portrayed as having undergone "the Seven Invasions of Luthany," including such peoples as the "Guiolin," the "Brithonin," the "Rumhoth," the "Ingwaiwar," and the "Forodwaith." The last three peoples can be securely identified as the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, and the Vikings, respectively (Tolkien 1984, 294 and 323), while the name "Brithonin" sounds suspiciously close to "British," very possibly alluding to the British-Celts that invaded Britain before the Romans and the Anglo-Saxons. Also, the term "Guiolin" brings to mind the Welsh word for the Irish ("Gwyddel") and might imply the infrequent raids on Britain by Irish looters. So, by using the framework of the "Book of Invasions" Tolkien constructs a pseudo-history of England, which corresponds vaguely to the real historical invasions of the island, in the same way that "The Book of Invasions" creates a mythological history for Ireland. It should also be remembered that scholars tended to attribute some historicity to the "Book of Invasions" at least up until the end of the nineteenth century, attempting to identify the mythical races that came to Ireland with specific historical invaders of the island.



A "Magic Bag": Romancing "Celticity"

Despite Tolkien's strong declarations against Celtic influences in his work in his 1937 letter to his publishers quoted earlier, he had by that time already used the story of the Tuatha De Danann in his mythology. If one reconsiders Tolkien's main objections to "things Celtic" in that letter, two major points of disapproval seem to prevail: incoherence and bright colour. Tolkien talked about the "unreason" and lack of "design" of the Celtic sources, and referred to them as "broken." This view had already been expressed in more scholarly terms in the introduction to his and Gordon's edition of Sir Gawain, where they praise the "sense of narrative unity" of the story in contrast with most other Arthurian romances which are "rambling and incoherent." They add that this is:
... a weakness inherited from the older Celtic forms, as we may see
in the Welsh Mabmogion, stories told with even greater magic of
style and even less coherence than the French and English
compilations. Instead of the usual multitude of adventures Sir
Gawain has only two, and they are neatly linked ... (Tolkien and
Gordon 1925, x).
Tolkien's and Gordon's criticism of the structure of the "Mabinogion" might seem fair to any modern reader of the stories: many of them are repetitive, they include a collation of well-known folklore motifs that are not necessarily well connected in a coherent storyline, and indeed they can be described as "rambling and incoherent." Recent research, however, has shown that the "Mabinogion" tales should not be regarded as literary tales of a single author, but as "oral-derived texts," influenced by the art of the oral storyteller and by their aural reception, despite their written nature, since they would be used for, and thus shaped by, the demands of oral performance (Davies 1995, 28-103; 1998, 134-5 and 136-7).

The second point that Tolkien seemed to find unpleasant in "things Celtic" is "bright colour," and I would argue that this comment is to be taken literally rather than metaphorically. In "English and Welsh," while referring to the "Mabinogion" tale of Pwyll Prince of Dyfed, Tolkien quotes a whole passage from the tale where the otherworld dogs of Arawn, King of Annwn, are described as being shining white and having brilliant red ears. Tolkien's comment to that is: "A very practical man, with a keen feeling for bright colour, was this Pwyll, or the writer who described him" (Tolkien 1983a, 173). It seems, indeed, that part of what impressed Tolkien in the Celtic sources is the description of stunning colours. Indeed, there are some impressively descriptive pieces in Celtic texts involving wonderful colourful scenes, often associated with the otherworld or with supernatural characters and events. Juliette Wood has discussed colour in the "Mabinogion," including not only the red ears of the otherworld dogs that impressed Tolkien, but also possibly the most extreme colourful descriptions in the whole collection of tales, found in The Dream of Rhonabwy, where, as she points out, "colour seems to take over" (Wood 1991, 18). Dramatically colourful descriptions are also a part of the Irish material, especially in the case of Cu Chulainn, whose hair changes colours when he is in a state of frenzy (O hOgain 1990, 131). Perhaps, then, Tolkien's unfinished satirical "pseudo-Celtic" story "The King of the Green Dozen," with its green-haired characters, is exactly a parody of the vivid presence of colour in Celtic tales. [10]



The charge of colourfulness against "things Celtic" might also have something to do with the modern romancing of Celticity and the false preconceived ideas this provides for the readers of Celtic legends. Tolkien's comment on Pwyll and the bright colours of the story is followed by the comment: "Can he have been a 'Celt'? He had never heard of the word, we may feel sure; but he spoke and wrote with skill what we now classify as a Celtic language: Cymraeg, which we call Welsh" (Tolkien 1983a, 173). Indeed, in the same part of the essay Tolkien referred to the "Celts" and the "Teutons," and the "romantic misapplication" of these terms, according to the "modern myth." He describes this myth with characteristic humour, but also with contempt:
In this legend Celts and Teutons are primeval and immutable
creatures, like a triceratops and a stegosaurus ... fixed not only
in shape but in innate and mutual hostility, and endowed even in
the mists of antiquity, as ever since, with the peculiarities of
mind and temper which can be still observed in the Irish or the
Welsh on the one hand and the English on the other: the wild
incalculable poetic Celt, full of vague and misty imaginations, and
the Saxon, solid and practical when not under the influence of beer
(Tolkien 1983a, 171-2).



This myth goes back to the creation of such stereotypes in the nineteenth century; stereotypes that also encompassed racial characteristics, mainly initiated by Ernest Renan and Mathew Arnold who established the image of the visionary Celt and the practical Saxon (Sims-Williams 1986). Indeed, Tolkien himself had used such stereotypes much earlier. In his 1936 lecture "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics," he referred to "the English temper in its strong sense of tradition ... strengthened ... by the more inquisitive and less severe Celtic learning" (Tolkien 1983a, 23-4). In "English and Welsh," however, Tolkien goes on to talk about how such preconceptions affect ideas about what "Celtic" literature should be like. He claims that Beowulf sounds much more "Celtic" since it is "full of dark and twilight, and laden with sorrow and regret" than any original Celtic material. It is at this point that Tolkien uses the description of Arawn, the King of the Underworld in the Welsh "Mabinogion," to pinpoint the sharp contrast of the actual description of Arawn and his dogs as opposed to their romanticised "Celtic" portrayal, which would need to be "ominous, colourless, with the wind blowing, and a woma in the distance, as the half-seen hounds came baying in the gloom, huge shadows pursuing shadows to the brink of a bottomless pool" (Tolkien 1983a, 172). This is indeed a picture that clashes vigorously with the white red-eared dogs of Arawn. Tolkien makes his argument about the popular misconception of the term "Celtic" even more poignant by explaining that: "To many, perhaps to most people outside the small company of the great scholars, past and present, 'Celtic' of any sort is ... a magic bag, into which anything may be put, and out of which almost anything may come" (Tolkien 1983a, 185-6). In his letter to Milton Waldman, in which he referred to his project to create "a mythology for England," he talks of his desire for his own mythology to possess "the fair elusive beauty that some call Celtic (though it is rarely found in genuine ancient Celtic things)" (Carpenter 1981, 144)--and it is here, I think, quite clear that he refers exactly to the romantic idea of "Celticness," with its supposedly sorrowful tone and twilight setting, that he knows to be misleading.
Epilogue: "British at Heart"

Tolkien's fascination with "things Celtic" is not exhausted in the examples used in this article. His continuous interest in the Arthurian legend [11] has been discussed by Flieger, who has also referred to the use of such Arthurian place names in Tolkien's legendarium as Avalon and Broceliande (Flieger 2000, 57). There are also numerous smaller references and motifs that point to Celtic sources--such as the idea of the fighting trees in Kat Godeu ("The Army of Trees") found in "The Book of Taliesin," which might have something to do with the creation of the Ents and the Huorns, or the occasional mentioning of triads used in the same formulaic way as in the Trioedd ynys Prydein. This article concentrates on one major example in Tolkien's legendarium that originated in "things Celtic" that defined Tolkien's conception of his own mythology.

This incorporation of Celtic elements into a mythology that was initially intended to be purely "English" shows that Tolkien's views gradually changed. He eventually came to regard the Celts not as binary opposites to the Anglo-Saxons, but as co-invaders and co-inhabitants of the same island, of the same land about which he felt so passionately. This can be clearly seen in his essay "English and Welsh" where he not only rejects all the romantic notions of the stereotypical depictions of Celts and Anglo-Saxons, but also declares his admiration for the Welsh language as an essential part of Britain's past and soul. It is characteristic that in The Lord of the Rings, inherent to the conception of the Shire, the land of the hobbits--which Tolkien often equated with England--is the existence in its margins of the "queer" folk of Buckland, who are given Celtic first names and place names (Tolkien 1993b, 526). This change in Tolkien's attitude cannot be more clearly shown than in his own words regarding the Welsh language, which demonstrate the eventual modification of his reactions to "things Celtic." He says:
For many of us it [i.e. Welsh] rings a bell, or rather it stirs
deep harp-strings in our linguistic nature. In other words: for
satisfaction and therefore for delight ... we are still 'British'
at heart. It is the native language to which in unexplored desire
we would still go home (Tolkien 1983a, 194).
Biographical Note
Dimitra Fimi has recently completed a PhD at Cardiff University on J. R. R. Tolkien's creative uses of his scholarly knowledge in the creation of his Middle-earth fiction. She is also teaching a course on Tolkien for the Centre for Lifelong Learning at Cardiff University.
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Wood, Juliette. "Colour in the Mabinogion Tales." In Colour and Appearance in Folklore, eds. John Hutchings, and Juliette Wood. 16-21. London: The Folklore Society, 1991.
Yeats, W. B., ed. Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry. London: Walter Scott, 1888.
--. Irish Folk Stories and Fairy Tales. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1957.
Notes
[1] Parts of this article have been presented as papers at the 40th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, 5-8 May 2005, and at the Celtic Folk Studies Conference, Cardiff University, 20-23 July 2005. The author is grateful for the comments received on both occasions.
[2] Previous Tolkien scholarship has established the convention of using "The Silmarillion" within quotation marks to refer to the body of stories and poems that Tolkien developed over many years, and The Silmarillion in italics to refer to the published volume of 1977. Also, in order to maintain consistency in terms of spelling for the Irish names, I have followed O hOgain (1990) (except for quotations, where the spelling of the original is respected), while for Tolkien's nomenclature I have preferred to adhere to Tolkien's own spelling in the different stages of his "legendarium" to which I am referring.
[3] For more of Tolkien's declarations about his appreciation of Welsh, see also Tolkien (1983a, 162 and 189-94) and Carpenter (1981, 213, 218-19 and 289).

[4] It has been decidedly proven that Tolkien never used the exact words "a mythology for England." This phrase was introduced by Tolkien's biographer, Humphrey Carpenter (1977, 89; see Stenstrom 1996), but it has been used since as a standard term to refer to his early nationalistic project. The only time Tolkien came very close to this phrase was when he wrote to a reader that he felt he had set himself a task "to restore to the English an epic tradition and present them with a mythology of their own" (Carpenter 1981, 230-1).
[5] Since the 1980s, the heated debate about whether there existed a homogeneous "Celtic" people in Britain prior to the Anglo-Saxon "migration" or "invasion" has also challenged the validity of the designations "Celt" and "Celtic" as meaningful and authentic terms for an ethnic or cultural group. In this article, the term "Celtic" has been used in its older sense, prior to these developments, since this is how Tolkien and his contemporaries would have understood it. For an overview of the arguments and counter-arguments of the recent debate about the use of "Celt" as a valid ethno-cultural designation, see Sims-Williams (1998).
[6] For a detailed analysis of the Anglo-Saxon elements in Tolkien's mythology, including the presence of the legendary leaders of the adventus Saxonum, Hengest and Horsa, in his earliest drafts, see Drout (2004).
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[7] Apart from his mistakes, Tyler also chose to adopt a fanciful, make-believe approach to Tolkien's work, quite common in fan publications. Many authors of popular criticism on Tolkien have often pretended to take at face value Tolkien's literary device of presenting his work as translations from a very old manuscript he had supposedly found (see, for example, Tolkien 1993b, 522-30). Instead of tracing influences of extant mythologies on Tolkien's literature, such authors chose to adopt a kind of reverse reality, interpreting well-known characters and folklore motifs from extant mythologies as survivals of the long forgotten legend supposedly "re-discovered" and "translated" by Tolkien. Tyler, then, explained the similarities of the Tuatha De Danann with the Noldor as dim memories of the latter by the Irish, many years after the departure of the Elves (1976, 179). In my view, the playful tone of this approach, through which often worthwhile information is presented, undermines any noteworthy insight any such scholar has to offer on Tolkien's fiction.
[8] The summary is based on Macalister (1941, 106-11, and 138-47), Cross and Slover (1969, 11-13, 22, and 28-9) and O hOgain (1990, 407-9).
[9] The story of the Noldor appears again in the "Quenta [Noldorinwa]" of c. 1930 (Tolkien 1986, 94, 96, 101 and 102), in the "Earliest Annals of Valinor" and "of Beleriand" of the early 1930s (Tolkien 1986, 266, 268, 269 and 295), in the "Later Annals of Valinor" and "of Beleriand" of the middle and later 1930s (Tolkien 1987, 115, 116-17, 118, 125 and 126), in the "Quenta Silmarillion" of the later 1930s (Tolkien 1987, 234, 237-8, 248-9, 250 and 252), and in the "Annals of Aman," the "Later Quenta Silmarillion" and the "Grey Annals" of the early 1950s (Tolkien 1993c, 111-12, 127 and 196; 1994, 16-18, 29-30 and 31-2).

[10] In later Celtic folklore the characters described as having green hair are usually the Merrows (Croker, 1828, Part II, 34; Yeats 1888, 61 and 64), but there is also one example of a medieval Irish-language tale, the twelfth-century Togail Bruidne Da Derga "The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel'--where a boy is described as having "three kinds of hair," namely "green hair and purple hair and all-golden hair" (Stokes 1902, 103).
[11] Note also that there is a discussion between the members of the "Notion Club" in Tolkien's unfinished work "The Notion Club Papers" on the historicity of Arthur, and on the fictional discovery of a new manuscript in medieval Welsh that would provide more reliable historical information on him (Tolkien 1992, 192, 216 and 227-9).
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