wood cat


incidents and accidents, hints and allegations

Fundamentally, LoTR involves a Catholic working out of the Will of God in the world, through His human agents. Since this is pre-Xtian, none of them can be a Christ figure or make a redemptive sacrifice (which is why Frodo is scarred both physically and psychological; and also why Gandalf cannot take the Ring). All must be, nonetheless, capable both of sin and of redemption (hence Gollum's brief repentance).

That's interesting, about Gandalf; an incomplete figure, as it were. Thanks.

Gandalf is an angel, a messenger of God, so he can't preempt the actions of God Himself on the earth. He is therefore limited to warning and teaching. His will, as it were, is restrained in comparison to the free will of the human characters. Which does, in effect, make him incomplete as a person.

I would have warned you: Shippey can be madly (though fascinatingly) discursive, and that the first two chapters are context-setting. They have to be read to get Shippey's full argument, but the chapters on The Hobbit and LOTR are gems by themselves.

My particular favorite discussion is that of the linguistic ironies in The Hobbit - Bilbo's modernisms up against everyone else's archaisms. The discussion of the nature of the Ring's evil is also first rate, though it's been strangely misunderstood by subsequent writers. Shippey is not saying that the Ring expresses Manichaean independent evil; he says that it balances the traditional Christian view that evil is a nothingness with the undeniable fact that it is real and must be resisted (the nugget of truth within the Manichaean heresy).

The close readings of the hobbits' language, and also the Council of Elrond scene, were quite useful.

I was also struck by the comment of how anachronistic the Ring is, in the idea of "power corrupts" and its addictiveness.

For instance, I didn't know that the Riders of Rohan were almost identical to the Anglo-Saxons, with the exceptions of having horses and not having religion.

I had the odd experience earlier this year, while reading some late Roman history, of seeing the Wainriders suddenly appear.

That would be odd!

Shippey talks briefly about the contrasts between Rohan & Gondor, suggesting that Gondor is something like Rome or a mythical Wales, so that would fit.

Against the backdrop that ME is the pre-history of our world: I think in one of the letters Tolkien noted that Minas Tirith would be, geographically speaking, about where Venice is; so I think it's fair to say that he saw them (in some way) as analagous to some kind of Italian City or City-State. (Though I never saw the Gondorians as particularly 'latin-like' myself...though they are much more cultivated, and even decadent, than say the Rohirrim.)

As I've heard more than one writer point out (and Tolkien, as a philologist, would probably have dwelt with wry delight on the fact), the word "sophisticated" originally meant "diluted" or "adulterated." In a sense, that makes "sophistication" the perfect term to describe Gondor -- they're civilized, all right, more so than the Rohirrim, and yet something that shines through crystal-clear in Edoras is diluted and muddied in Minas Tirith.


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