Tom Shippey

Studies of the Written Tolkien Legacy: From Analysis, to Maps, to Philosophy and Ethics, to Philology
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Iolanthe
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Post by Iolanthe » Sat Mar 13, 2010 3:49 pm

I'll try and read it by then....
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
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Post by Lindariel » Sat Mar 13, 2010 7:46 pm

I read and enjoyed that chapter a while ago, so I will try to give it another quick read before Monday. Til then!
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Post by Merry » Wed Mar 17, 2010 2:59 am

Well, I'm not sure where we should begin!

Shippey's main point here seems to be that 'proverbiality' is a survivor genre and one that we shouldn't lose track of. He remarks on some of the 70 or so proverbs that he finds in LOTR and categorizes them according to culture, and then says that, combined, they produce an 'ideological core' that is unique to Tolkien, about how Providence and free will and determination all work together.

So what shall we talk about? Think we could list all 70 or so proverbs?
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

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Post by Iolanthe » Wed Mar 17, 2010 3:44 pm

Wow - that would take some doing! Might be fun though :lol: .

Does he count real proverbs from this world that are found in LotR or only those coined by Tolkien himself that are unique to The Shire, Rohan etc.?
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
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Post by Merry » Wed Mar 17, 2010 3:47 pm

I'm not sure. We would have to count them to find out! 8) Leave it to Shippey to do that.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

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Post by marbretherese » Wed Mar 17, 2010 9:46 pm

I think Shippey's talking about something wider than just proverbs: the "wise sayings" and "proverbiality" of the essay's title, which took me back to Charles Bressler's talk at Oxonmoot 2008. Bressler spoke about aphorisms: not as homely as proverbs, not scientific as axioms or well-known as an adage, he defined them as a personally expressed truth which although not well-known would be unlikely to be forgotten. He said that aphorisms instruct and heal both physically and spiritually.

That wider definition chimes with Shippey's point that they form "a pattern which is both just and fair and . . . Providential . . the 'ideological core' of LoTR." But by Bressler's reckoning, Shippey has miscounted; Bressler found 138. So perhaps we won't make a list :D
"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


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Post by Iolanthe » Fri Mar 19, 2010 10:17 am

I was thinking of Bressler's wonderful talk too. He asked for examples from the floor and many people there had the best ones committed to memory. A fact that shows Tolkien's genius for them. 'Not all tears are an evil' 'Many that live deserve death. And many that die deserve life.' 'It's a dangerous business going out one's door'....
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

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Post by Lindariel » Fri Mar 19, 2010 12:30 pm

"All that is gold does not glitter . . ." etc.!

"Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens."

"Maybe, but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall."

"Yet sworn word may strengthen quaking heart."

"Faithful heart may have froward tongue."

"Say also that to crooked eyes truth may wear a wry face."
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Merry
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Post by Merry » Sat Mar 20, 2010 6:24 am

"One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters."

"Rede oft is found at the rising of the Sun."

"There are some things it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark."
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

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Post by marbretherese » Sat Mar 20, 2010 10:42 am

Bressler reckoned that Tolkien gave Gandalf the most (30), then Aragorn, then Sam, Théoden and Faramir (who has 5). He also said that Gandalf's and Aragorn's sayings become wiser as the book progresses, while Legolas's become more optimistic. Sam starts out by repeating wisdom learned from the Gaffer but by the end he has discovered his own wisdom, made all the more profound by the fact that his language remains simple.
"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


http://www.marbretherese.com
http://marbretherese.blogspot.com/

Merry
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Post by Merry » Sat Mar 20, 2010 3:22 pm

That sounds like a really interesting talk. One of my favorite lines from Legolas is "Up with your beard, Durin's son!" or something like that, to Gimli when he senses the change of seawind on the boats. It seems like such an authentic line, I also wondered from what culture or source Tolkien borrowed it.

Not a proverb, really, I guess, but it has the same flavor.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

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Post by marbretherese » Sat Mar 20, 2010 5:36 pm

I've been to two of Bressler's talks now (I think he's at Oxonmoot every year) and they are always interesting, informative and extremely moving. He has a real love for Sam and all he represents.

I didn't recall your quote, Merry, but I've looked it up and funnily enough it leads straight into another proverb:
"Up with your beard, Durin's son!" he said. "For thus it is spoken: Oft hope is born, when all is folorn."
I bet the beard bit's Anglo Saxon, unless Tolkien made it up, of course!!
"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


http://www.marbretherese.com
http://marbretherese.blogspot.com/

Iolanthe
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Post by Iolanthe » Tue Mar 23, 2010 5:16 pm

A great example of Legolas getting increasingly optimistic!

I had to go back to our Oxonmoot reports to see what I had written about Bressler's talk:

From the Dealers Room it was straight on to another talk – and one which I think must have been one of the best ones of the Moot – American Charles Bressler talking about ‘Tolkien’s Aphorisms: Vehicles of Grace, Healing, and Mystery’. You would have loved this talk, Merry! Bressler is a wonderful speaker and parts of his talk moved people to tears. I’ll give this talk in more detail later, too, but as a taster – he started by asking people for their favourite phrases in LotR, which all turned out to be aphorisms like ‘Not all tears are an evil…’ . He then talked about how aphorisms in LotR reflect the status of the speakers: short, pithy ones in italics (and therefore common sayings) for characters like Gaffer Gamgee, long thoughtful ones from characters like Gandalf and Aragorn. He then showed us how characters can be seen developing through the book as they choose the good and reject the bad, and how their aphorisms develop and change with them, revealing their inner thoughts and progress. He revealed LotR as a spiritual journey for many of the characters, tracked by Tolkien in their aphorisms. He said that the most satisfying days are the days when ‘we have been Sam for the day’. That everything good in LotR is done in community, that no man is an island. He also emphasised that not everything in LotR is resolved or explained, that there are still mysteries and that we need mysteries.
I said I'd give the talk in more detail, but then I never did :roll: .

I like his perspective that as the aphorisms change with a characters' journey, they reveal much of a characters' inner thoughts. This is interesting when one thing Tolkien doesn't do in LotR is give any of his characters long interior monologues to tell us what they are feeling all the time.
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

Merry
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Post by Merry » Tue Mar 23, 2010 7:36 pm

I'd like to know more about Bressler. Thanks for the reprint of your notes, Iolanthe. I think I remember reading somewhere that JRRT and CSL didn't like this aspect of the 'modern' novel, the long interior monologue and its reliance on a superficial kind of psychology. A person's interiority is most clearly viewed in that person's actions and maybe secondarily in his or her words.

I'd still like us to think about making a list of all the proverbs or aphorisms in LOTR--it would be a great resource for scholars! Maybe this summer when some of us, at least, will have more time. We could separate the books into chapters and share the work. My only problem in thinking about this is that Shippey and Bressler evidently refer to different lists, since they have widely different tallies, so maybe it is hard to discern what counts and what doesn't!
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Iolanthe
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Joined: Thu Aug 25, 2005 2:21 pm
Location: Washing my hair in the Sundering Sea

Post by Iolanthe » Thu Mar 25, 2010 10:31 am

I think that's it, and we don't know what their specific criteria were. I think it would be interesting to do too - and to have them in chronological order for each character would be enlightening. The only way to do it would be to have a thread where everyone can add them, with an opening post that we could edit them into so they are all collected in one place.

I remember reading that Tolkien and Lewis didn't like the interior monologue as well and I wish I could remember the source! Tolkien certainly showed that it's possible to create deep and fascinating characters without it. In fact not knowing everything that they are thinking makes it more interesting, I think. It gives much more scope for us to identify with them in our own ways and it also gives us endless discussion possibilities. Maybe it's one of the many reasons LotR is so addictive and successful!

There is a bit of info about Bressler from the Oxonmoot information booklet (never throw anything away!):
Charles Bressler is Professor of English at Indiana Wesleyan University, USA, and his specialities include JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis and Charles Williams.
I also managed to google this:

Charles Bressler, John Wesley Honors College
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

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