Descriptive anachronism?

Discussion in '"The Lord of the Rings"' started by Elostirion, Feb 12, 2018.

  1. Elostirion

    Elostirion Registered User

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    Professor Tolkien likens Gandalf's firework dragon in A Long Expected Party to an express train; I always thought this was an incorrect description since it references technologies which cannot otherwise exist within Professor Tolkien's legends. Any thoughts?
     
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  2. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    For me, Tolkien's (imagined) role as translator includes the role of writer too, rendering both Westron and the tale for modern minds -- rendering Westron (largely) into modern English, and at times, making use of modern similes or metaphors for creative "peppering".

    The translator, JRRT (Appendix F "On Translation"), is also the latest in a series of tale tellers.
     

  3. Merroe

    Merroe Active Member

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    Quite funny as a comparison though! I had not noticed this. It feels a bit out of style, indeed! o_O
     
  4. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Currently in hiding

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    That did stick out -- slightly -- to me, when I first read it, and maybe it was one of the "many defects, minor and major" Tolkien found in the work; but I've always considered it a vestigial remnant of the tone of The Hobbit, with its references to elephants, coffee, tobacco, and, in the first edition, tomatoes.

    In fact, the tone of the whole first part of the first chapter, up through the party, is that of The Hobbit, which is no surprise, as the author's working premise was, at the beginning, that he was producing a "sequel" to that book. I've often wondered how many people read that far, only to decide they couldn't face three thick tomes written in that light, semi-comic style.

    But the tone changes immediately after that, with the conversation, and confrontation, with Gandalf, which announces the sense of wrongness that seems to be inherent in fantasy (see the interesting short article in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy for this).

    Tolkien himself noted several times, in the course of writing the story, how it was "getting out of hand", and growing deeper, darker, more "adult" in tone, as he worked. This too, should come as no surprise, as the same thing happened (to a lesser degree) in The Hobbit, particularly in the last few chapters.

    Of course, the style reverts briefly to the comical, Low Mimetic mode the next day, with the gift scenes, and the "several small (but rather valuable) articles that had somehow fallen into" Lobelia's umbrella -- itself another anachronism. But after that, as the tone darkens, and the story moves into the romance-mode proper, even though there are comic episodes to come, Tolkien carefully excises anachronisms, using "pipe-weed" rather than The Hobbit's "tobacco", for instance.

    At the end, when we return to the low mimetic world of the Shire, we get a partial return to the tone of the beginning, but colored by the great events and changes in the lives of the hobbits, and in the story itself. As an example, it's interesting to note how that one bit of anachronism, Lobelia's umbrella, reappears, not as an instrument of her rather comical greed and underhandedness, but transformed into a symbol of her bravery against the tyranny of Sharkey and his ruffians, the exact same spirit of courage and resistance, against seemingly overwhelming odds, that the hobbits of the great quest had discovered in themselves.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2018
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