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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:34 pm 
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Letter 180 is to Mr. Thompson and is a draft, and has some interesting insights into Tolkien. In the letter Tolkien describes the writing process he went through as he wrote the Lord of the Rings. He begins by introducing the notion that legends depend on the languages to which they belong, but also, "a living language depends equally on the 'legends' which it conveys by tradition." Thus his notion of language was tied directly to the development of the legends that later came to form The Silmarillion.

I find his quote that "I have long ceased to invent . . . I wait till I seem to know what really happened. Or till it writes itself. He then shows how he knew Frodo would have a tree-adventure somewhere along the great river, but that he never invented Ents so to speak. When he came to that point of the story, he wrote "the Treebeard chapter" as it is now. without any recollection of any previous thought. Much different than how many writers are taught to write today in formal education; something we should all be grateful for and take notice of.

Tolkien further states that good did come out of The Silmarillion being rejected, "The Lord of the Rings was the result." I love his comments on hobbits, that he loves them , "since I love the vulgar and simple as dearly as the noble, and nothing moves my heart (beyond all the passions and heartbreaks of the world) so much as 'ennoblement (from the Ugly Ducking to Frodo)."

I love the noble that is in the Lord of the Rings, yet I think the theme of ennoblement is also one very dear to my heart. What is it with this book(s), that draw so many to them at such a passionate level?

Finally, of all the characters in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien, as most of us know, states "As far as any character is 'like me' it is Faramir." How do you think Faramir is like Tolkien? Based on Letter 180, if Tolkien was to get to know you, what character do you think he would say you are like? I'll share my own views later on this.

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1. " . . . (we are ) too engrossed in thinking of everything as a preparation or training or making one fit -- for what? At any minute it is what we are and are doing, not what we plan to be and do that counts."

J.R.R. Tolkien in his 6 October 1940 letter to his son Michael Tolkien.

2. We have many ways using technology to be in touch, yet the larger question is are we really connected or are we simply more in touch? There is a difference.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:52 pm 
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ArathornJax wrote:
Letter 180 is to Mr. Thompson and is a draft, and has some interesting insights into Tolkien. In the letter Tolkien describes the writing process he went through as he wrote the Lord of the Rings. He begins by introducing the notion that legends depend on the languages to which they belong, but also, "a living language depends equally on the 'legends' which it conveys by tradition." Thus his notion of language was tied directly to the development of the legends that later came to form The Silmarillion.


This really highlights the symbiotic relationship between Tolkien's fiction and his languages. It is well-known that Tolkien started writing his stories to give a venue for his invented language, but it is equally true that his invented languages grew and developed in response to his growing mythology. Many of the languages (such Andunaic, for instance) came into existence out of the stories themselves. But most compelling is how his Elvish languages developed in conjunction with the legendarium. There is a great essay on that subject in the book Tolkien's Legendarium called "Gnomish is Sindarin" by Christopher Gilson. In the same book, Carl Hostetter (our member "Aelfwine") and Patrick Wynne have an essay called "Three Elvish Verse Modes" which I think well-demonstrates how the languages actually live inside the mythology.

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I find his quote that "I have long ceased to invent . . . I wait till I seem to know what really happened. Or till it writes itself. He then shows how he knew Frodo would have a tree-adventure somewhere along the great river, but that he never invented Ents so to speak. When he came to that point of the story, he wrote "the Treebeard chapter" as it is now. without any recollection of any previous thought. Much different than how many writers are taught to write today in formal education; something we should all be grateful for and take notice of.


I love that quote, too. There was some controversy a number of years ago when the TTT extended edition DVD came out and there was a comment in one of the extra discs about Tolkien being an "amateur author". Somehow this comment ended up getting attributed to Philippa Boyens, even though it was actually stated by Tom Shippey himself. And it was not meant as an insult, but rather to point out that Tolkien was not bound by the conventions that often limited so-called "professional authors".

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Finally, of all the characters in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien, as most of us know, states "As far as any character is 'like me' it is Faramir." How do you think Faramir is like Tolkien? Based on Letter 180, if Tolkien was to get to know you, what character do you think he would say you are like? I'll share my own views later on this.


I don't know that it is really possible for us to say whether Tolkien was really like Faramir. After all, do we really know him? We can surmise much from his writings and the stories that we have heard of him, but is that really enough to judge him by? I don't know. I certainly think that he has some of Faramir's qualities. But I also think that he has some of Frodo's qualities. And (on a somewhat darker note), I have argued before (without much agreement from others) that Túrin was Tolkien's Autobiographical Flawed Hero.

As for your other question, I would like to think that if Tolkien got to know me, he would say I was like, yes, you guessed it ... Voronwë the faithful. But that may well be wishful thinking.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 6:22 pm 
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Fascinating comments, both of you.

I think Tolkien's way of writing is more common among working writers than many people would suspect. The mechanical process taught in schools doesn't work for everyone. It can even be stifling.

Why is it considered acceptable and even laudable to be intuitive and spontaneous in painting, or improvised music, or dancing, or pretty much any art form except the one that calls for the most sustained imagination and the deepest level of detail in what is created? (I mean at Tolkien's level here, not mine; at my level you can write to a formula, and many people do.)

I'm probably Sam, by the way, if I may be permitted to choose across gender lines (Sam in intention, I mean, not in actual heroism). I admire both Éowyn and Galadriel, but I've got nothing in common with either. And there aren't any other women with significant on-stage roles in LotR.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2008 7:16 am 
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Interesting link on Tolkien and Túrin. I can see the connection especially in context of this statement:

"Túrin is in essense the "anti-Beren" and I think he better reflects Tolkien's conflicted personality."

Tolkien definitely had high periods and low periods as any study of him shows. I think what is amazing about Túrin is that though Tolkien may have seen Beren as his mythical self, the self he related to the most in his mind, I have would agree that Túrin is closer to the reality of what he was, and perhaps to what we, as human beings are. The inner conflict, the highs and lows, are more representative of life then Beren.

I also think as with any writer, elements of that writer's experience and life do make it across to the characters no matter how hard they may try to not have that happen. Thus we can still see elements of Tolkien in Beren, Túrin, Frodo, Sam, Faramir etc.

In terms of writing method style, the one thing I know for sure is that for writers, it differs. Yes, there may be some common elements, but each writer develops a method that is unique to them. In formal education we try to defuse that and teach a structured approach to writing. Part of this will depend on the purpose of the product, but often we view writing as part of the academic world (which it is of course). Prim, I agree with you that the vast majority of the writing that is published is much more align to Tolkien's approach.

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1. " . . . (we are ) too engrossed in thinking of everything as a preparation or training or making one fit -- for what? At any minute it is what we are and are doing, not what we plan to be and do that counts."

J.R.R. Tolkien in his 6 October 1940 letter to his son Michael Tolkien.

2. We have many ways using technology to be in touch, yet the larger question is are we really connected or are we simply more in touch? There is a difference.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2008 9:18 am 
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I think the similarity between Tolkien and Faramir can be mostly seen in their general attitude toward the situation of the world they lived in. Faramir fought in the war to defend his homeland; he had no unrealistic dreams about great heroism and conquer. And, he sure would have preferred to sit in the vaults of Minas Tirith, researching old scrolls and scriptures! Tolkien did his duty in WWI as well, but he was always a scholar by heart, trying to keep up with his academic studies even on the training camps.

But elsewhere, Tolkien said that he fully regards himself as a hobbit, except for the size; and, from as much as we can tell from what we know of him through his writings and from biographies, he really seems to have had quite a lot of hobbitlike characteristics.

So, what character he might say that I resemble? Not sure. Treebeard, perhaps. Or maybe rather Quickbeam - I have lots of patience, tend to think things over for several times before acting, and hate having to make haste, but in some situations, I tend just to jump in...

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2008 9:51 am 
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I'm probably Pippin. Like a hobbit, I love food, friends and good cheer above all else. And like Pippin, I find it really hard to take things too seriously.

Remember this:

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"Hush!" said Gandalf from the shadows at the back of the porch. "Evil things do not come into this valley; but all the same we should not name them. The Lord of the Ring is not Frodo, but the master of the Dark Tower of Mordor, whose power is again stretching out over the world! We are sitting in a fortress. Outside it is getting dark."
"Gandalf has been saying many cheerful things like that," said Pippin.


Thats so me.... ;)

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2008 1:30 pm 
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Al, :P

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Prim, I agree with you that the vast majority of the writing that is published is much more align to Tolkien's approach.


I'm not sure I can agree with that, AJ and Prim. Unless the creative writing classes that I took back in the day are completely ignored by most published authors. But I bow to the wisdom and experience of our actual published novelist.

But I do think that there are number of areas in which Tolkien really did diverge from "professional writers". His works simply don't follow the structure of a traditional novel (with the possible exception of The Hobbit). And his characters generally do not have the traditional "arc" so prized in modern fiction writing.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2008 3:20 pm 
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Oh, structurally LotR is completely its own beast! I just don't think it's the product of an unusual writing process, at least for processes that have to invent a world.

I took those creative writing classes in college, too, Voronwë, but the standard structured orderly outlined approach they taught was so alien to the way of writing that seems natural to me that I tried only briefly to apply it, and gave up with relief. It felt like strapping on lead-soled boots and trying to dance.

Outlines do save time when laying out a story—I wonder if HoME would not be about five volumes shorter if Tolkien had been an outliner. :P

On the other hand, those "wrong turns" can be fruitful, at least for geniuses like Tolkien (and are often wonderful reading in themselves). And even I usually find details of setting or character in scenes I'm discarding that I can use elsewhere.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2008 1:46 am 
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Let me further define what I mean that more published writing follows Tolkien's model versus the formal writing that we see for dissertations and thesis; or writing based more on academic based approached.

I've been trained in the teaching of writer's workshop, and in the story workshop approach, to teach students and adult teachers. I dislike the term "writing process" though I use it. I dislike it because it implies a set series of steps through which everyone proceeds in creating a piece of writing. I don't agree that writing is a linear art, it's not. Anyway, with new writers I may initially provide a list what authors do when working which may include:

Writers:
* rehearse: develop an idea, perhaps make notes or lists to try different leads (I keep a small notebook in my pocket or a pda where when I see something interesting that I may want to explore, I write a quick note).
* create a draft and read, revise, confer
* perhaps create a second draft and read, revise and confer
* decide when the content is set (in Tolkien's case I wonder if he ever felt the material for the Silmarillion was ever set)
* polish: final word choices, clarification, tightening
* final formal editing for conventions
* self and trusted sources editing, reading and input.
* submittal to an outside editor
* final copy
* proofread
* publication

I never leave a list like this up for more than two weeks because in the end, writers at any age need to become familiar with the language of writing, and the activities of a writer. In the end, they have to learn how to make the decisions of a writer and that the process they go about to generate writing will be unique to them. They may rehearse, draft, generate a different idea or a variation on an idea and decide to go back from the draft and rehearse off that draft to create a new draft. Writers may create one idea, draft, revise, draft, and then leave that to pursue another idea. Thus a writer may have a variety of ideas going on, and in the revision process begin to narrow their work. They may use a variety of mapping techniques or no mapping techniques as the idea flows, as it did with Tolkien at times.

In describing the Story Workshop approach, I find it best to use terms from the school itself. The Story Workshop approach draws fully upon a writer's diverse background and experiences by emphasizing permission for, and development of, each writer's unique voice and story content. Writers are taught to tap into their imagination and potential for creative problem solving as they explore the interrelated processes of reading, listening, perceiving, experiencing, oral telling, critical thinking, and writing. The Story Workshop method assumes that all forms of writing derive from image and story, from image and movement of voice organizing the expression of perceptions through time. The development of these human perceptual imaginative, and verbal capacities through their many derivations in oral and written forms is always the Story Workshop objective.

So in the sense that many see writing as a linear concept, with set steps, is not what I feel the writing process is, nor is it what I teach or use in my own writing. There may be elements that are the same, but how someone writes is unique to them. I also know that in writing, my poetry, short stories, and other works of fiction follow a different path to publication versus my academic writing.

So I guess what I am saying is that the approach Tolkien did, was unique to him, and other writers, if we really examine them via research, we find that though there are common elements, the road to the end product varies and is not linear, nor the same as other authors. We could probably go through my list above and show how Tolkien used common elements, but how he went about using those elements varied, and he also probably had a couple of his own elements that were unique to him.

Thus when we think of writing, I firmly believe more writing follows Tolkien in the sense of not being linear, but in that for each author, the process is unique to them, and inspiration comes in many ways. Sometimes, it is not until in the process of writing do we discover something that comes out from the story itself, and is not planned or pre-thought up of. There are common elements, but the process is unique to the individual.

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1. " . . . (we are ) too engrossed in thinking of everything as a preparation or training or making one fit -- for what? At any minute it is what we are and are doing, not what we plan to be and do that counts."

J.R.R. Tolkien in his 6 October 1940 letter to his son Michael Tolkien.

2. We have many ways using technology to be in touch, yet the larger question is are we really connected or are we simply more in touch? There is a difference.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2008 3:43 am 
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Absolutely fascinating, AJ. I wish I had taken writing classes from you instead of some of the winners I got. And now I can clearly see where you get some of your piercing insights into Tolkien.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2008 4:03 am 
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Me too!

Although I really did have quite a special writing instructor back when I was in college. Her name was Berry Morgan. She was quite eccentric, and insisted on calling me by my middle name, Charles, and had me go by the name "D. Charles Kane". She was a lot more enthusiastic about my writing ability than I was, and basically willed me into identifying myself as a writer. She invited me to spend a summer working on her farm in West Virginia, but that soured when she tried to hook me up with her neice. I left the farm, and I haven't done any creative writing since.

Man, I haven't thought about her in a long, long time. In fact, I just learned that she passed away in 2002 by googling her name just now.

Okay, that seems to be way off-topic, but there is a reason I am including it here. Berry was a huge taskmaster in terms of being disciplined and organized in your approach, but what she always told me she recognized in me (or thought she recognized in me) was that spark of inspiration. She always insisted that was what separated the "writers" from everyone else. The rest of the stuff was just the nuts and bolts that made it work.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2008 5:57 am 
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I'm sorry you can't tell her now how right she was. But maybe she knows!

:hug:

The instructor who told me I'd never amount to anything as a writer is also dead, alas. But that would not be the same kind of satisfaction at all. :P Probably best left as it is.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2008 12:48 pm 
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In the end I think anyone who has published has had more than one person tell them they couldn't write. Thank goodness we don't listen to them.

Back on topic. I never mentioned who I think the professor might say I would be like. I would want to considered to be the noble Aragorn. In reality, I believe I am a lot like Théoden because I became significantly lost at one point of my life, and jeopardized those things that I really love, value and have responsibility for. Luckily, like Théoden I had noble Gandalf who awoke me to my reality and had me see what was really going on. Then I was able to make changes, but like Théoden, I harbor inward regrets and its impact long term to those I love and have responsibility for. Like him, I guess I continue to ride forth to "battle" ever hopeful that the rest of my life will make me worthy to be welcome to the halls of my fathers when my time on Arda is over.

I think in many ways perhaps, that is the question. Who do we want to be like and who are we like in reality, and who we would like to become like in the future. Hopefully for most, they are one and the same. I'm just weird (yes, I admit that), I have who I would like to be like, who I am actually like, and who I would like to become. That is why I would also like to be considered like Eärendil the rest of my life; someone who sacrifices self-interest to bring hope to many/all.

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1. " . . . (we are ) too engrossed in thinking of everything as a preparation or training or making one fit -- for what? At any minute it is what we are and are doing, not what we plan to be and do that counts."

J.R.R. Tolkien in his 6 October 1940 letter to his son Michael Tolkien.

2. We have many ways using technology to be in touch, yet the larger question is are we really connected or are we simply more in touch? There is a difference.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2008 10:52 pm 
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I like that, AJ.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2008 12:18 am 
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AJ, I think a lot people are caught between who they are and who they want to be. You're not weird. You're on the go. ;)

Take this for what it's worth, knowing that I'm but a hobbyist talking to professionals, but I think it's not all that uncommon for writers to put elements of themselves or people they know in their stories. You need (I think) some degree of empathy for the character you're developing or else they just won't work. And it seems natural to put the person you admire, or amalgamize the traits you admire, into a good-guy role. Just as it seems natural to put the person you dislike, or amalgamize the traits you dislike, into the bad-guy role.

I have no idea who Tolkien would classify me as. I guess when you get down to it the one I latch hardest onto is Merry. I can totally see myself undertaking a massive quest on a whim and then sticking with it just because, well, I started, right? Might as well finish. This is odd. I don't really identify with hobbits as a race in general. But there's more me in Merry than any others.

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