Tolkien Lectures: Week 5

These notes were originally written by Erik Tracey, transcribed to MS Word by Erik Tracey, and HTMLized by Scott Powers. Enjoy!

The Fellowship of the Ring
Best work of Tolkien (profs view)

But first, more on Bilbo's development

Critical point of Heroes in Silmarillion is that they don't grow as characters, nor do they seem "real" (as contrasted w/ Frodo)

Bilbo does develop -a bit.
Hobbits have more of the common traits found in man -> we identify w/ them more; as opposed to elves and man-heroes.

Bilbo (and Frodo) is seen as fated [by Gandalf] to have a part in the great struggle of good and evil.

Bilbo is asked to express moral courage by giving up the Arkenstone - a presage to tone of LotR.

In keeping w/ fairie tales, Bilbo's reward is quite tangible (dragon treasure) -> the "happy" ending.


Fairie Tale Hero vs. Mythic Hero

Most myth had to do w/ "nature" myth because of preoccupation and dependence on the cycles of nature in ancient agrarian cultures.

Most Christian Holy Days (Holidays) are adaptations of pagan holidays:

Christmas = Yule (reappearance of the sun)

Easter = Eos (Goddess of Dawn)

Rebirth of Gods from Winter
Rebirth of Jesus

Tolkien was aware of and used fertility myths as documented by Sir Frasier:
old King is killed and replaced w/ new king ->rebirth and renewal for the king's people ->Fisher king motif

Fairie Tale Checklist

  1. Start at Home
  2. Call to adventure
  3. Leave Home
  4. Magic guides, companions, tokens
  5. Meet villian and defeat him (usually a group effort)
  6. Return home w/ enhanced power or treasure

Mythic Tale Checklist

  1. Call to adventure
  2. Supernatural aid
  3. Trial (passage thru underworld)
  4. Goddesses, father figures (interaction)
  5. Battle/Major Conflict
  6. Return or Flight
  7. then Mastery
  8. or Loss

Edmund Wilson - modern critic of Tolkien said LotR had too many plot lines repeat: underworlds, eagles, wastelands - this showed a lack of imagination.

Even in LotR, Bilbo retains his childlike nature - witness his joke at his party (the disappearing act, and his biting comments on the party presents)

Bilbo can get by w/ luck, magic, and hobbit sense/nature in the Hobbit.

This won't serve for Frodo - ME is now a much darker and dnagerous place; Frodo is different in character than Bilbo - more a scholar, less bumptous.

Sam has a huge appetite for the "outlandish" (from German auschlandisch = out lander, foreigner)

Hobbits are almost outside the History of ME They seem to be left out of all the tales and songs.

Merry -> known for common sense (Brandybuck)
Pippin -> youngest and careless (Took)

Hobbits are low on the Maslow scale. Not aware of high, rather just limited

The further we get form the Shire the further we move away from the fairy story and closer to the mythic tale.

Tom Bombadil's purpose in the Tolkien mythos:
there is none, never fully explained, kind of a nature spirit. Humanoid, unfallen, untouched by the events of the Fall in ME. Not part of the good/evil mythos. In view of the story process, it is a sign that Tolkien is still getting a grasp on his thematic purpose.

The song Frodo sings at the Prancing Pony (supposedly a song of Bilbo's) is both fairie tale and mythic: funny song, but the Ring betrays him.

In Medieval times, folk songs were passed along in pubs:
Ring around the Posy (facial rings from Black Death)
Pocket full of Posy (cover the smell of sweat/stink of infected)
Ashes Ashes (hachoo?? something about sneezing)
All Fall Down (death from the Black Death)

Quite a morbid kids song!

This page is maintained by:

Scott Powers
NCSA X Mosaic Lead