Tolkien and Final Fantasy

Discussion in 'The Golden Perch' started by Mithrandir-Olor, Jul 29, 2015.

  1. Mithrandir-Olor

    Mithrandir-Olor Registered User

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    Warning! This post will discus spoilery plot points from some Final Fantasy games.

    J.R.R. Tolkien looms over the entire modern Fantasy Genre, and doesn't lack influence on other genres either. However Japanese RPGs seem to be one corner where Tolkien' influence is mostly indirect, with the key middle man being Tabletop Role Playing Games like Dungeons and Dragons (which originated in my home-state of Wisconsin) and it's imitators.

    With Final Fantasy in particular, what's cosmetically Tolkien like about it has decreased heavily since the original game which could have been accused of outright plagiarizing D&D. And even in that first game the race refereed to as Elves aren't like Tolkien's Elves at all, they are more like Santa's helper Elves.

    Still translations of The Hobbit, LOTR and the Silmarilion into Japanese had all been done by 1982. So the potential for some direct influence isn't impossible. Generally however Fantasy games in a non RPG format seem closer to Tolkien to me, maybe simply because the way RPGs use Magick doesn't exactly fit Tolkien's use of it?

    With Final Fantasy, what is surprising is that the Final Fantasy game that seems the most like a story I think Tolkien would appreciate, is not one of the classic games with a Medieval High Fantasy setting, but rather Final Fantasy VII, the first futuristic FF game.

    Some of that could be because of FFVII's Norse mythology influence. Midgar and Middle Earth are both names that derive from Midgard.

    First of all I think of the Cetra as being the most like Tolkien's Eldar of any race appearing in Final Fantasy. Lesson 1, Tolkien never described or depicted his Elves as having long pointy ears,. Physically they look like Humans. Their difference is all in lifespan and a more mystical connection to Arda. I don't recall if the Cetra had any longer lifespans, but essentially they look like Humans but had a mystical connection to the Earth via the Lifestream.

    Aerith is Cetra on her mother's side and human via her father, which fits the pattern of all Tolkien's Half-Elven. But Tolkien Human-Elf Maidne pairing always resulted in males, a line mingling descent from both Idril and Luthien happened because Beren and Luthien's son Dior had a daughter, Elwing.

    But on a more thematic level. While I hesitate to label Tolkien completely Anti-Technology, he was very concerned about industrialization, and the fear of nature being harmed by it. So all technology in his Legendarium tends to be villainous, Sauron and Saruman were both Maia of Aule after all.

    Final Fantasy VII is likewise very much about fears of technology going wrong. Sephiroth is a Frankenstein Monster, and Shinra is an evil energy company destroying the Earth's life force for profit. And of course there is a Mad Scientist.

    This aspect of FFVII is notable because latter FF games particularly X are all about deconstructing and rejecting the technology is bad for nature attitude. In Final Fantasy X the belief that the evil monster tormenting them is a judgment for their loosing touch with nature by letting technology get out of control is commonplace. But in fact it's an evil corrupt hypocritical religion (People keep comparing it to Christianity because of it's hierarchy, but the values it's based on are actually pretty Eastern) advancing that viewpoint. And in the end they use Technology (Cid's Airship) to help destroy the beast permanently.

    One of the reasons I think the story of Final Fantasy X would appear to Gene Roddenberry. Another would be destroying a God figure who turns out to be pathetic. So Final Fantasy VII is for Tolkien fans and X for Star Trek fans (II and XII are for Star Wars and Indiana Jones fans and Tactics is for Game of Thrones fans).

    But back to Final Fantasy VII, I want to talk about it's ending, so consider this paragraph another spoiler warning.

    That ending where the Meteror is still coming even after they killed Sephiroth and everything seems hopeless... then Aerith's Holy suddenly kicks in to save that day.... is exactly the kind of moment Tolkien coined the term Eucatastrophe for.

    Do other FF games have moments that could qualify as a Eucatastrophe? Eucatastrophes don't lend themselves to Video Games well because we want to feel like the victory is because of the player's work. In the entire Zelda franchise the only example I can think of is in Wind Waker, when Ganondorf is about to touch The Triforce but somehow out of nowhere The King beats him to it. (The Rito showing up at the Forsaken Fortress also makes me think of the Eagles).

    The only other FF example that even comes close is the end of XIII, and I'm familiar with the endings of I, II, Legend, Mystic Quest, VI, X, Tactics and XII.
     
  2. jallan

    jallan Registered User

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    Do Tolkien’s Elves have pointed ears?

    Mithrandir-Olor’s answer is:

    Tolkien never described or depicted his Elves as having long pointy ears,. Physically they look like Humans. Their difference is all in lifespan and a more mystical connection to Arda.

    Not true.

    Read the article by Conrad Dunkerson at http://tolkien.slimy.com/essays/Ears.html which both lists the evidence for and against and draws its own conclusions.

    At least when writing the “Etymologies” in the 1930s, published in The Lost Road and Other Writings (HoME 5) Tolkien seems to imagine his Elves with ‘leaf-shaped’ ears. In Letter 27 of Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien he writes that he imagines his Hobbits as having “ears only slightly pointed and ‘elvish’.”

    These are the only places, so far as I know, where Tolkien even mentions Elvish ears.

    True, “Tolkien never described or depicted his Elves as having long pointy ears.” But Mithrandir-Olor doesn’t bother to note that Tolkien never depicted his Elves anywhere, and Mithrandir-Olor ignores Tolkien’s mention of Elves having ‘leaf-shaped’ ears in the “Etymologies”. Also Mithrandir-Olor ignores Tolkien’s lack of any negative comment on art portraying Elves with pointed ears produced in Tolkien’s lifetime.

    Conrad Dunkerson’s conclusion is:

    In the final analysis there is no definitive evidence either way on this issue. A strong case can be made for either viewpoint by leaving out the opposing arguments, but when viewed as a whole the matter is ambiguous. The lack of any reference to elven ears in ‘canonical’ writings ultimately makes a decisive answer impossible.

    Mithrandir-Olor doesn’t bother to provide evidence for his conclusion in this matter, because there isn’t any.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2015

  3. Mithrandir-Olor

    Mithrandir-Olor Registered User

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    That you for the new information.
     
  4. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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    Welcome back to the forum , Mithrandir-Olor!

    I must say Jallan's tone was a bit intemperate here.

    Hope you'll stick around.
     
    Ithilethiel likes this.