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American Views on TLOTR Versus British

CirdanLinweilin

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From Tolkien Gateway:

" Dan Wickenden gives a positive review of The Return of the King in the New York Herald Tribune titled "Notable Allegorical Trilogy Comes to Triumphant End"."


Did this chap think to realize TLOTR was NOT ALLEGORICAL or was this an American View versus a British One, especially post-WWII?

Thoughts?

CL
 

CirdanLinweilin

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A lot of people believe LotR to be allegorical, not just in US. And truth is, it does have historical inspirations; but inspiration =/= allegory.
True, but I just would like to believe Americans were trying to find WW2 in everything, (okay, maybe British, too), but didn't they pay attention to the author when he said "Nope, not allegorical.", or did we have to wait till his letters were published?


I only ask because I find it disrespectful to Tolkien that his work gets misunderstood, you know? XD
 

Olorgando

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Every critic has one insurmountable problem: the number of new books published in any country in any year.
I have a vague memory from I do not know exactly when that 18 000 book titles are (were?) published in Germany per year.
Now that includes (probably) quantum physics to popular science (including social sciences), (auto-) biographies, and the huge realms of fiction (to which by rights several books assigned to the previously mentioned categories should belong).

For the sake of argument, let it be 1 800 new book titles. That still makes 5 books per day, 365 days a year. You get my drift ...

There is a specialization among critics to avoid the hypothetical every-critic-must-read-everything scenario.
But all things considered, critics must be able to read fast. And there are techniques for this, which may be useful in one or the other genre - "skimming for plot" comes to mind.

The worst way to read LoTR. As I know from myself, other members here and on other sites, and comments in almost every book about JRRT, this is probably the book (at over 1000 pages!!!) that is reread more often than any other. So, to use a term I also read somewhere, the tools of the "critics" fail miserably for a vast proportion of what is printed (that has a plot - excluding practically all non-fiction, a not inconsiderable portion of yearly publications). Dunning-Kruger-Effect again - finding this all over the place is becoming dispiriting!

I have read (meaning I did nor arrive at this conclusion by myself, anything but that), and may have posted here (or in other JRRT sites) that some of the most imperceptive critiques of (mainly) LoTR have not come from the rabid opponents, but by sympathetic reviewers (who had nevertheless internalized the totally useless assumptions of the rabid set). They made the mistake of opposing the views of the rabid set, but on terms and conditions defined by that set. They did not challenge the, and I use this pejorative term deliberately despite a fracas on another thread, brain-dead assumptions of their opponents. They made the mistake of letting the morons define the playing field ...
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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I recall reading that about the time Edmund Wilson was dismissing LOTR as "juvenile trash", a taste for which he thought must be uniquely a British failing, an English reviewer was describing it as possibly suitable for Americans (and he didn’t mean that in a good way).

As for allegory, it's not often recognized that commentary, especially thematic commentary, whether in a review or scholarly essay, tends to allegory, to the attaching of ideas to the fictional structure. If we say, for instance, that "The Lord of the Rings seems to be raising questions about the nature of true heroism", we've begun to allegorize. This doesn't turn LOTR into allegory, but it does perhaps show that that "allegory" and "applicability" are not necessarily diametrically opposed. I think what Tolkien objected to was continuous allegory, of the "by this I mean that" kind we find in Bunyan or Spenser. It's possible to employ allegory intermittently, as with much of Shakespeare, say, where "applicability" seems a more appropriate term. It might be best thought of as a sort of sliding scale.
 

Olorgando

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A lot of people believe LotR to be allegorical, not just in US. And truth is, it does have historical inspirations; but inspiration =/= allegory.
True, but I just would like to believe Americans were trying to find WW2 in everything
Imagination goes off the rails at times, it happens.
*nitpick alert!*
Dan Wickenden is one single American critic; to take his as "the" American view is somewhat excessive. At the very least there was W.H. Auden, who had reviewed LoTR positively, without Wickenden's misreading, and Auden also became something of a bulldog in JRRT's defense, weighing in with some pretty sharp blasts at JRRT's detractors.

And then there is the deep divide. on both sides of the Atlantic, between JRRT's negative critics and his millions of readers. I don't know how many hardcovers had been sold by the time Ace Books published their pirate paperback, but the Ace edition must have sold several hundred thousand copies, and the authorized (revised) Ballantine paperback did Ace better by a long shot, sales rocketing past the one and then two million marks in rapid succession.

And then there are readers who actually don't like LoTR (GASP!), many of them never finishing the books ,,,
 

CirdanLinweilin

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*nitpick alert!*
Dan Wickenden is one single American critic; to take his as "the" American view is somewhat excessive. At the very least there was W.H. Auden, who had reviewed LoTR positively, without Wickenden's misreading, and Auden also became something of a bulldog in JRRT's defense, weighing in with some pretty sharp blasts at JRRT's detractors.

And then there is the deep divide. on both sides of the Atlantic, between JRRT's negative critics and his millions of readers. I don't know how many hardcovers had been sold by the time Ace Books published their pirate paperback, but the Ace edition must have sold several hundred thousand copies, and the authorized (revised) Ballantine paperback did Ace better by a long shot, sales rocketing past the one and then two million marks in rapid succession.

And then there are readers who actually don't like LoTR (GASP!), many of them never finishing the books ,,,
True again.


CL
 

Olorgando

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As may (or not - yet) have become obvious, there's nothing to set me to me cracking my knuckles before going bananas on the keyboard like a sweeping statement! ;)

Though it often is like shooting fish in a barrel (does that aphorism have any basis in reality??? That sounds like people involved in predatory activities with prey in water or on land getting prey and appropriate "predatory tools" seriously mixed up! 😳 )
 

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