Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Achievement of Tolkien

Well, he was THE anti-Wagner, easily outdid C.S. Lewis in portraying Christian experience, and unlike T.S. Eliot actually understood and rewrote for the better his people’s pagan myth. It really is too bad that’s there’s no real audience for this kind of thing today, and that we have to go to the ASIA TIMES to find out what’s really going on with probably the most profound Christian writer of the 20th century. Lots of people like Tolkien, but almost nobody is up to the task of appreciating what he’s really up to. (Thanks to Mark Henrie.)

Discussions - 38 Comments

My brother just told me about this book today. Can't wait to read it! Very interesting that Tolkien wrote it as a tragedy; I had no idea his project included an anti-Wagner element. I may even have to dig out the Silmarillion to read first. This looks to be a good summer . . .

I was looking at that book at Barnes & Nobles tonight. It's an elongation of a portion of the Silmarillion. It's a very tragic tale, as is most of the Silmarillion, but for all that, it's a story of human resiliency. It's a story not without a trace of hope, but that hope doesn't lie in man, it lies in a loving Creator who in the end, will not forget the work of his hands.

PETER, you should take a look at some of the Unfinished Tales published by Christopher Tolkien. More of the mind of Tolkien is to be found therein. They're more illuminating of him, the author, than the work published during his lifetime. Moreover, you should read his academic piece. I read it a couple decades ago. If I recall, it's titled: "Monsters and Myths." Tolkien saw his stories as tales that prefigure the Christ, that prefigure, however palely, Christianity itself. They prefigure the disclosure from the One. The Gospel message came in "the fullness of time," a very pregnant phrase that. Tolkien tried to flesh out that "fullness" of time, the "fullness" of the ancient pagan wisdom, which had gone as far as it could, and now awaited a revelation from him, who is "wholly other."

I didn't buy the book though. I purchased one by an RAF Ace, Peter Townsend.

I am relatively new to my love for C.S. Lewis, inspired mainly by my daughter (because of Narnia) and a good friend who once passed along Till We Have Faces. Since then, I have read into some of his non-fiction work, but not yet systematically. With Tolkien it is different. I want to like him because so many people I like and respect admire him (including, of course, C.S. Lewis). Beyond that, Tolkien was a Catholic--like me--so I am trying to cheer for the home team! But like a good Catholic, I have a confession: I can't read The Hobbit. I have tried at least a half-dozen times to get engaged with it, but I just can't. I even rented The Lord of the Rings and forced myself to watch it. I must have dozed off six or seven times. I followed the plot and found it mildly interesting, but nothing grabbed me. What is wrong with me? Could it be that this is such a "boy" book that it offers no immediate appeal and I can't get beyond that? Maybe. Narnia is just as odd and fantastic (as is J.K. Rowling's Potter series--which I also like), but it seems to offer more broad gender appeal. Maybe I just have to force this medicine down the way some guys apparently have to force down Jane Austen. Still, I can't help feeling all creepy-crawly every time I pick up that book . . . kinda like I feel when I find a spider in the sink! Put another way, I think I'd like the company of that house, but I don't like the decorations in the rooms they inhabit so I avoid them. Stupid, I guess. But there's no accounting for taste.

I sympathize with Ponzi. If we ignore the actual story of LOTR, I think we can all agree that Tolkien was a terrible writer. Perhaps not a bad storyteller, but a terrible WRITER, notice. I can't tolerate his pompous prose. He needed an editor. Him, and Melville too.

Boo, you are an...well, you are not smart. Tolkien's prose are beautiful...concise, Anglo-Saxon prose. He didn't need an editor, he needed readers with greater discernment. He has brought home the power and elegance of our original Germanic tongue (as well as Finnish and some Gaelic) to millions and millions of readers. You don't have that kind of staying power if you are a bad writer...you should wish to be so bad.

Melville, yea...sucks. I agree on that one.

Julie,

The Hobbit is somewhat more of a children's tale. Try reading LOTR.

Yet, if one reads The Hobbit carefully, there are many essential first principles and classical virtues and well as a struggle of good and evil that is so well fleshed out in LOTR.

The Hobbit is quite different from LOTR. And LOTR is altogether different from the Silmarillion. The Hobbit was written as a kid's book. The Silmarillion is a mythic adult tale. And it covers adult themes.

And BOO is way off. If Tolkien isn't a great writer, ............. ?????????????? Who is?

Tolkien specialized in long, boring descriptions:


"The invitations were limited to twelve dozen (a number also called by the hobbits one Gross, though the word was not considered proper to use of people); and the guests were selected from all the families to which Bilbo and Frodo were related, with the addition of a few special unrelated friends (such as Gandalf). Many young hobbits were included, and present by parental permission; for hobbits were easy-going with their children in the matter of sitting up late, especially when there was a chance of getting them a free meal. Bringing up young hobbits took a lot of provender.


There were many Bagginses and Boffins, and also many Tooks and Brandybucks; there were various Grubbs (relations of Bilbo Baggins’ grandmother), and various Chubbs (connexions of his Took grandfather); and a selection of Burrowses, Bolgers, Bracegirdles, Brockhouses, Goodbodies, Hornblowers and Proudfoots."


Why did I need to know all that? Who cares what the Hobbit word for a dozen dozen is, or about the family names of all who attended Bilbo's party? Tolkien is verbose to the extreme, and to call him concise is laughable. I was never particularly fond of his silly similes either: "there was a forest of silver spears that sprang suddenly into the air with a yell like an embattled army, and came down again into the Water with a hiss like a hundred hot snakes."


Like a hundred hot snakes? Come on, people, this kind of writing is juvenile.

Dain, I'll say it: Boo, you're a moron. You don't need to know all that, I suppose, but it gets you into the mindset of the Hobbits. They're completely unambitious. Their passions include food, rest, and family trees. Just go watch MTV, it can cater to your attention span much better than Tolkien.

Here's one of my favorite passages which should persuade anyone whose soul has not been completely corrupted by the Information Age that Tolkien did indeed write beautiful prose:

Frodo sighed and was asleep almost before the words were spoken. Sam struggled with his own weariness, and he took Frodo's hand; and there he sat silent till deep night fell. Then at last, to keep himself awake, he crawled from the hiding-place and looked out. The land seemed full of creaking and cracking and sly noises, but there was no sound of voice or of foot. Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. 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 forever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master's, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo's side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep and untroubled sleep.

"Spengler" is a pseudonym here, correct? That's unusual to find in a newspaper. The pernicious influence of the blogs is spreading. I can see his appeal to the Ashbrook crowd, but he strikes me as really reaching with a lot of this.

Andrew

Their passions include food, rest, and family trees.

Quite so. Which makes it odd that Spengler has convinced himself that Tolkien detested the idea of family trees. I'll bore you all with further thoughts on this a little later.

Since we're sharing favorite passages:


[Eomer on the Pelennor, believing the battle lost, in the act of rallying the Rohirrim to the last stand]


"And lo! even as he laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his sword to defy them.

"And then wonder took him, and a great joy; and he cast his sword up in the sunlight and sang as he caught it. And all eyes followed his gaze, and behold! upon the foremost ship a great standard broke, and the wind displayed it as she turned towards the Harlond. There flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor; but Seven Stars were about it, and a high crown above it, the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for years beyond count. And the stars flamed in the sunlight, for they were wrought of gems by Arwen daughter of Elrond; and the crown was bright in the morning, for it was wrought of mithril and gold.

"Thus came Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elessar, Isildur's heir, out of the Paths of the Dead, borne upon a wind from the Sea to the kingdom of Gondor; and the mirth of the Rohirrim was a torrent of laughter and a flashing of swords, and the joy and wonder of the city was a music of trumpets and a ringing of bells. But the hosts of Mordor were seized with bewilderment, and a great wizardry it seemed to them that their own ships should be filled with their foes; and a black dread fell on them, knowing that the tides of fate had turned against them and their doom was at hand."


About the only disappointment I had with Peter Jackson's film was with the decision to replace this scene with that of Aragorn et. al. leaping the gunwale in the penultimate appearance of the Aragorn action lietmotif (Aragorn angry! Aragorn charge!). I guess I have to accept that the conventions of cinema require the director to keep the action moving.


I wonder if this doesn't get to the heart of the disagreement between Boo and dain & Andrew about the pacing of Tolkien's prose. I somewhat agree with Boo that the writing is verbose, but it doesn't bother me. Tolkien's descriptions are like paintings --built layer upon layer. And, like a painting, it sometimes takes a conscious effort to keep one's attention focused actively on what's in front of you in order to take it all in. This can be especially true in our mass media/tv world wherein various and sundry spectacles compete for our (often) straying eyes and (sometimes) slovenly minds.


The Narn I Hin Hurin (I guess it's "Khin" now) was a favorite of mine in Jr. High.

MTV? Must you go for the low blow? Even Shakespeare keeps his plots moving. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Doyle, even CS Lewis -- they all wrote prose that was cleaner (that is, more deft) and superior to Tolkien's. It's not a matter of attention span, it's a matter of knowing tripe when one sees it. This passage, for instance:


"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"


A creative writing 101 instructor could have taught Tolkien the basic rules of fiction writing: show, don't tell. "Hope returned to him" is amateurish, and smacks of laziness in characterization. "The beauty of it smote his heart" sounds like something a high school girl would write in her fan fiction. I'm not a particularly big fan of CS Lewis, but his space trilogy (at least parts one and two) are far better examples of fantasy than anything Tolkien ever wrote. Lewis at least had basic creative writing skills, and knew better than to make his prose flowery and full of empty adjectives. He is credited with a great quote on how awful it is to use value judgment adjectives like "beautiful" in writing. He points out -- and Tolkien should have paid attention -- that such writing is lazy because it asks the reader to imagine the scene for himself.

Lots of people like Tolkien, but almost nobody is up to the task of appreciating what he’s really up to.

I'm convinced that Spengler is not one of the few who is up to the task. The Children of Hurin is billed as being written by JRR and edited by his son Christopher. As the article makes clear, this was "reconstructed" by Christopher based on writings of his fathers from the 1920's. I have not read the book yet but I'm not to to take it as being defining as to John R's thoughts.

I think Spengler is pushing his own thesis here. It is summed up as:"Our people, our culture, our language, our toehold upon this shifting and uncertain Earth are no more secure than those of a thousand extinct tribes of the Dark Ages; and a greater hope than that of the work of our hands and the hone of our swords must avail us.

The greater hope he is getting at is Christianity. It's unfortunate for him that Christianity exists today precisely because of the work of hands and the hone of swords of those who came before us. If not for Charles Martel and his Frankish tribesmen, we would all most likely be followers of Islam today.

Spengler wrote a few previous articles on the theme of Christianity and LOTR. Here is a link to one of them, and an excerpt.

The sea-passage to the West, in Peter Jackson's interpretation, represents death. It might just as well represent immigration to America. Unlike all other peoples, Americans need not fear the extinction of their cultural identity, because they have none to begin with. That is America's great weakness but also its abiding strength. It is the reason that America well may endure for all time while the Kulturnationen dissolve into the dust of the libraries. Americans bridle when told that they have no culture. But what can they name whose loss would destroy their sense of national identity? ... At the time of their revolution, Americans considered German as a national language. A century from now they might adopt Spanish. America can withstand the loss of the English language itself.

So America is the Seinfeldian nation, a nation about nothing. It could adapt Arabic as a language, Islam as a religion, and communism as a economic system, and still be America? Not exactly.

As long as America's political covenant remains intact, Americans can change their "culture" as often as convenient. America may fulfill the Christian project, as an assembly of individuals called out of the nations, cut loose from their heathen heritage - an outcome Tolkien could not have imagined.

The "outcome Tolkien could not have imagined" is the only part of this which has a basis in reality. America does not have a heathen heritage. It's culture is, or was, based on Christianity. The etymology of the word "culture" should be a hint here, surely.

Spengler claims that the Europeans embraced tribalism over Christianity, and that this will lead to their downfall. This is not what is happening. Europeans lost their belief in both their religion and their nations at about the same time.

Turning to America, the places which are "decultured" in Spenglers sense are the coasts and the large cities, what we all call "blue state America". These are the same places in which religion is most weakened. It's no exaggeration to say these places are rather hostile to religion. The "red state" Americans whose religion exists as a viable force are the same people who display the most overt patriotism and nationalism.

I've seen Dan Philips claim that this Spenglerian sort of mentality is Jacobin. That is because all universalist belief systems tend to look a lot alike in practice. Strictly speaking, this is a form of Christian heresy, and one without support in LOTR.

Boo, the passage you just quoted was deeply moving - millions of others have been similarly struck by his beautiful descriptions of the world he created and his lucid understanding of the human condition and soul. I'll take him over some flunky, unpublished Creative Writing instructor with a doctorate but can't get a tenure-track position anywhere.

As for Tolkien and Lewis, Narnia is often unsatisfying because its Christian allegories are so obvious. Tolkien's Catholicism is deeply woven into the texture of the story and one might not even notice it if he weren't looking. Read Brad Birzer (at Hillsdale) and the Catholic apologist Peter Kreeft for their own deeply moving examinations of this fact - Birzer's book is available at ISI and Kreeft at Ignatius. I've read LOTR over again perhaps 10 times, but nothing really moves my soul to rummage among my shelves for the dusty copy of the Great Gatsby. Was Tolkien the preeminent novelist of the 20th century?

I agree, and I've argued with people before about Tolkien and his supposed "Christian allegory." If Tolkien had wanted only to create a fairy-fairy land for a crypto-Christian message, he would have written Narnia. Instead, Tolkien picked Norse mythologies, the last survivor of Europe's pagan past. Why on Earth would he do that...select something that incompatible? Personnally, I believe it's because he was struggling to unite the two most important loves in his life -- ethnic history/language and Christianity. The guy was a professor of Anglo-Saxon, for crying out loud. The world of our ancestors was his passion. LOTR isn't a retelling of the Christian story -- it's a Christianized (i.e., cleaned-up) version of our ethnic history and beliefs.

And you know what? It worked. How many people have come to Christ because of LOTR? Few if any. But how many have gained a renewed appreciate of their cultural past after reading LOTR? Millions.

As for his prose, LOTR drags as Frodo heads toward Mordor. The other side of the tale is some of the best literature on the planet. And Boo can take his/her snotty standards and go read Hemmingway. What makes good literature is timelessness and readership, and Professor Tolkien has both of those in spades.

My favorite passages? Eowyn and Eomer on Pelennor Fields. Anyone who doesn't feel the chill run up their spine when Eowyn says "Back foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion!" is...well...they are soul-dead in my view.

Well said Dain!

The thing w/ Tolkien is that I regularly find myself picking up his works, esp. LOTR, reading what I've read many times for sheer escapist enjoyment, but I'm also aware that I've never really done justice to him, in terms of what careful study and consider could yield.

For a small example of the latter, I recommend a study of Tolkien's "theory," to use a very un-Tolkien word, of Faerie, which is found in the earlier chapters of From Homer to Harry Potter co-written Matt Dickerson and David O'Hara, the latter of whom is a dear and learned friend of mine. The study allows one, guided fore-mostly by Tolkien, to distinguish myth, fantasy, and fairy tale, which turn out to be pretty important distinctions, which might even help you to be a better reader of the Bible. Tolkien even says in his "On Fairy Stories" that "The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy stories." You just know there's a lot to explore there...in the same essay he says "Faerie is a dangerous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary, and dungeons for the overbold," which perhaps reminds us of poor Syd Barrett and that beautiful moment on the first Pink Floyd album, And fairy stories held me high...

Dain's assesment of where the LOTR drags seems right-on to me. As for Boo, he's sort of right, insofar as the power of Tolkien's artistry is more in the whole conception than in any particular bit of prose. For the latter, there's no question that you're better off opening to any page of Austen, Flaubert, Hemmingway, Naipaul, or most of all, to the craftsmen of craftsmen Wodehouse. Perhaps that's the apt comparison: Wodehouse painstakingly labored his whole life to produce page after page of the most arfully playful prose centered upon the most narrow doings of an everyday English 20-century twit, whereas Tolkien labored for years, less worried about prose artistry than with plumbing the mythic depths and possibilities of Anglo-Saxon, Scandanavian, and Finnish heritage, in order to make a saga-world that would somehow speak to an English/Western/Pagan/Christian memory lodged deep within our modern souls, capable of disturbing our sleepwalk into blinkingly narrow twitdom.

I would add to Carl Scott's comment that the heritage that J.R.R.T. plumbed was an oral one; which may be why he opted to tell, not show.

First rank chain; everyone's contributing illuminating and interesting comment. Thanks to all.
Can I add that neither Lewis nor Tolkein has ever been my cup of tea (bad pun intended), but you guys are whetting the appetite.

Paul and others: According to this very helpful article, Tolkien seems core text of pre-secular European Studies as prolegomena to the cool post-secular variety. Just read your fine and clear article on Manent, by the way.

Well and wittily observed and connected, Robert. In a (similarly?) serious vein, I place these and related discussions within a broad set of questions and categories - longstanding preoccupations of mine - What is Europe? What is Western civilization? Benedict's a player here; so is Francois Guizot, Nietzsche, Manent, Paul Valery, David Gress, Leo Strauss (although "Europe" was less of a concern and category for him than "Western civ"), and many others. Perhaps I should add that these are not merely "backward-looking" queries and concerns! They are of utmost contemporary relevance, I would submit.

Yes. On a recent faculty panel on immigration I had used the phrase western civilization. The first question afterwards from the post-modern (wrongly understood) feminist Nietzsche loving philosophy prof was, "What is Western Civilization?" It's the question that needs to be answered. For many years my main preoccupation was the preservation and ennobling of the American regime, in the context of ancients and moderns. Since the end of the Cold War, however, my mind has increasingly turned to the question of a post-secular post-modern world (rightly understood). What would it look like? What Strauss was generally silent about. Post-modern realism includes the whole truth about man and so includes Christian anthropology. The question of Europe also and particularly is the question of the whole truth about man, the whole truth about Europe's past. The relevance you speak of comes down to the fact that Europe now is the decisive front in the current war.

Oh no! It's the attack of the monomaniacs again!

Might I humbly suggest that you look for "Western Civilization" in the blood and soil of Northwestern Europe? Most accounts I've seen (like Huntington) focus on classical/ancient Greece and Rome and Latin Christianity as the "guts" of Western Civ. Evidently, prior to this time the ancient Celts and Germans grunted, having no language and no civilization.

But...to take a simple (admittedly too simple) approach, constants can't explain differences. The entire "expanded" Mediterranean world inherited Classical Civ as well as Judeo-Christianity, and yet produced three distinctive religions (Latin Christianity, Orthodox Christianity, and Islam). Moreover, as time passed the Northwestern "version" of Latin Christianity morphed into something different (as did its economy - feudal states rather than city states).

In short, there was something about Northwestern Europe that produced modern Western Civilization. I submit it was a conjunction of the natural ecology (the North Atlanta, the soil, the climate itself) and the ancient tribal traditions of the Germans and (surviving) Celts.

And, if you look around, the only places outside of NW Europe that have become truly "Western" are in temperate climates that could accommodate European settlement (parts of Australia, South Africa, the Southern Cone of South America, and of course good ol' North America). The blood and the soil, these alone don't explain all of Western Civilization, but I think they explain most of what is unique about it.

There is a great book by Alfred Crosby on this topic -- Ecological Imperialism. A good read -- no social scientist or historian should be ignorant of these dyanmics that shaped the modern Western world.

Oh, and lest I be criticized for being "off-topic" yet again, I didn't bring this up, and I also note that it was Tolkien more than any other intellectual who has inspired "the folk" to explore their own past...something desperately needed after Hitler's dark vision (which very nearly destroyed that which he sought to promote).

This is a great thread. I just got back into town and have no time to do justice to it. I do like the pre-secular European studies...

Tolkien's verbosity is not the thing that I find unappealing in his work, I think. Mark Helprin is one of my favorite novelists today and he is quite verbose. I like adjectives and descriptive language even, sometimes, when they are over-done. I think, from reading this thread, that the thing I don't particularly like in Tolkien is his appeal to those very Anglo-Saxon/Germanic traditions he was attempting to ennoble. Perhaps the names and the pictures he paints do not immediately appeal because they seem so completely foreign to me. But I am inspired to try it again. After we finish the Potter books, I'll try The Hobbit with my kids and if they like it, I'll try LOTR myself. But if I end up at one of those conventions dressed like a Hobbit, you have my permission to shoot me.

Julie, I'll be glad to shoot you, just name the time and place!

Seriously, I'd stick to Lewis if I were you, or those miserable Potter books. LOTR and the Silmarillion are for adult minds who would like to be reconnected with their ancestoral past.

I would be interested in knowing your ethnicity, Julie (not your husbands, which I assume is Italian?). You were not raised on fairy-stories involving dwarves, dragons, knights, etc.? Such stories are pretty standard for people of British, Irish, Scandinavian, Dutch, and German descent, which I think is part of Tolkien's appeal. Most people I've known find the elvish (i.e., Welsh & Finnish) a little strange, but the hobbits (modeled on the Irish, I suspect) and the Rohirrim (essentially the Anglo-Saxons/Germans) very familiar. You don't?

And has anyone noticed the similarity between the dwarves and the diasporic Jews?

Now THAT is an interesting observation, dain. But if in fact you're on to something, what does that say of Tolkien's views of Jews? After all, they were created before the elves against Illuvatar's (sp?) wishes and put to sleep until the First Born (right name?), or Elves, were awoken. Pardon any incorrect jargon, I haven't read the Silmarillion in years.

I'm not sure, Andrew. Perhaps it's only a coincidence, or perhaps Tolkien felt sorry for a people who were good a wealth-creation but not at defending it (i.e., plunder-prone). Certainly, the Jews were chronically mistreated by nearly all medieval rulers, and the dwarven story parallels that experience pretty closely...although Tolkien made it clear that some of it was their own fault. Except for elves (which I always thought he made too high-falutin'), he was pretty good about describing these races, warts and all.

And has anyone noticed the similarity between the dwarves and the diasporic Jews?

You mean, like, they're greedy, Heinrich?

That's right, Craig/Sonny...maybe it's what Tolkien thought...I don't know. I do know that slapping this anti-Semitic label on me is a cheap shot, and an incorrect one to boot. You'll notice that my chosen "handle" is "dain," as in "Dain Ironfoot." I've always identified with the dwarves in Tolkien -- they were my favorite characters. So shut up and crawl back into your hole, jerk.

Tolkien is an advocate of the mixing of the races, which is an affront to Nature and Nature's God!

Mobys and Dimwits and Trolls, oh my!

I'm still not sure if this guy is a moby, or just dopey. But he's pretty funny!

Elves and humans mixing! Where will it end?

I was on the road and missed all of this. I always think about Tolkien while on the road, because his stories are always about journeys. That is where part of the Christian element comes into the stories, the idea of life as a journey. There is that and also that the stories on tape were favorites of my kids for listening to on road trips.


I agree with Carl Scott, that for sheer escapist enjoyment, LOTR is wonderful and I would say that Tolkien can only be beaten by Wodehouse in that, perhaps. I say only perhaps because they are so suited to different moods, and we have different moods when reading. When I was young I read Tolkien because he offered the fairy tales of my even earlier reading and something more. There is something about what it is to be a person in his characters. By my early teens, that was a very important question, what it was to be a person.

I see that Tolkien describes different kinds of people in his work, but not in any ethnic sense. I thought he was exploring what a human was, not only through characters, but through idealized types.

That Tolkien created a whole world, with a geography, history, ethnography, even languages, is a remarkable achievement. I think he achieved his goal of creating an extended entertainment, even if he has a few sections of pompous prose.

Ah, Dain, Dain, Dain...your obnoxious treatment of Julie appalls. You even mess up an interesting question, "Were you raised on fairy tales or not?" w/ one that in this context can only offend. No, Julie, we do not need to learn about your ethnicity, and you are right to refuse to stoop to Dain's baiting. I do think the Potter books are of a much lower realm than Tolkien's or Lewis', although I have enjoyed reading bits and chunks of them, and they stand pretty tall compared to the field of young adult literature. As for comparing Lewis' Narnian books w/ Tolkien's, well, the latter are superior, but in an apples and oranges sort of way. Very different muses at work in the two men, despite many shared tastes and concerns. Lewis remained a generalist of sorts, and his personality did not lend itself to a total commitment to a vision the way Tolkien's did. Lewis served as a popular Christian apologist, a literary critic, an Oxford teacher, and while his poetic forays into fantasy were probably dearer to him than any other aspect of his work, he knew and embraced the fact that he did have other work. He juggled different tasks and roles, whereas Tolkien's scholarship sort of blends into and prepares the ground for his literary creation. Lewis is more like most of us in that way, while still being a great man. His Narnian tales might even encourage us to tell and invent tales of our own...whereas Tolkien's achievement seems to inspire shoddy (or perilous) attempts to re-enter his world by another portal. One thinks of the pretty good movies, or of the Dungeons and Dragons phenomenon and the related fantasy literature genre, with books like those god-awful Thomas Covenant ones, and one hears Robert Plant and a thousand heavy-metal progeny singing about Mordor, spells, and power. Mankind in the mass might be better served by the Narnia books during childhood, and during our adult re-visitations of childhood, than by its so often endlessly adolescent fascination with Middle-Earth. A final point of Lewis-Tolkien comparison: Tolkien didn't like the inspiration Lewis took from George MacDonald...a significant aesthetic/theoretical split there concerning what faerie is all about, that is frankly above me at this point.

Incidentally, Dain is right about that book by Crosby, Ecological Imperialism ...a fine and fascinating read from a science-first world history perspective...the sort of thing that inspired the inferior but very popular Jared Diamond book on civilizations.

Carl, stop being so partisan. You can't understand my "relationship" with Julie by reading a single thread. She frequently baits me (e.g., the 'Mexifornia' thread above), so what may appear rude in the context of a single thread should actually be viewed more holistically.

Other than chiding me, you seem to agree with my assessments...thank you for that.

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