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Did JRRT create real mythology?

Mithril 2000

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In a letter to his publisher (it's in the my copy of the Silmarillion) Tolkien confessed that his goal was nothing less than the creation of a real mythology ( a la Greece, Scandanavia, Germany, Joseph Campbell) for the English-speaking world. Has he succeeded? Will he succeed?

I believe he has a better chance of succeeding than he ever imagined. With LOTR being included among the best works of literature of the 20th century, and with the new movie "spreading the word" to millions who otherwise would never have been exposed to Tolkien, the LOTR and Tolkien's world will continue to seep into our culture's collective consciousness. Only time will tell....
 

Walter

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First things first: Welcome to this forum, Mithril :)

I am not sure whether You are asking something that You would like to see discussed here or not, since You seem to answer the question You made the topic of this thread Yourself in the last statement: "Only time will tell". Especially since this answer appears pretty final and somehow implies: No matter what we discuss here, only time will tell whether we're right or wrong. We could as well end this thread there and go and have a beer together... ;)

Nonetheless this question has been discussed in more than one thread during the past weeks and it was a vivid discussion as You will find out if You take the time to read through them.

But there is one thing I'd like to mention here: No matter how much of Tolkien's mythology will be "absorbed" by us, something will always distinguish it from the "grown" mythologies, for it has been "invented" and it is the offspring of a single person's mind. Whereas the grown mythologies are a conglomerate of knowledge, passed from one generation to the next, over thousands of years, mixed with errors, mistakes, inventions, etc. And, IMHO, this difference will always remain known, visible, or better: perceivable...
 
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DGoeij

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I agree with Walter. The 'old' mythologies are build up over long years, becoming legends as they were by mouth passed on to a next generation. It is impossible to pinpoint exactly what was true, and what wasn't.
The difference with the works of professor Tolkien is, that it is widely known it is made up by him personally. That knowledge will travel along with the great stories, as it didn't with all those other mthologies. At least, that's what I assume, who knows?

Time will tell.
 

Mithril 2000

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What I love is the shear scope of the ambition itself. I agree that there will always be attribution by the literati, but just think about how many people believe that Sherlock Holmes was a real person.

Yeah, I'm a newbie here, and should have figured that this subject has already been beaten to death. It's just that I always get real "middle earthy" after a reread, and having also read a bunch of Joseph Campbell's stuff during this past year, I guess I've got mythology on the brain!!

I'll poke around here some more before opening my big mouth again.
Who are some good posters to be on the lookout for?

-M2k
[also the name of my silver car]

PS- Just turned 50. You know how significant that particular birthday can be.......
 

Walter

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Originally posted by Mithril 2000
It's just that I always get real "middle earthy" after a reread
Well then I'm quite sure You will enjoy it here, for You're in good company for that...
PS- Just turned 50. You know how significant that particular birthday can be.......
Not many of us "know" this first hand, but I guess I'll find it out sooner than I might wish...;)
 

Lantarion

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Welcome, Mithril. Great question, I have to think about this.. hmm..
Well, I think he has created it, but it will take a long while for it to become a true myth; and it will take even longer now, with the blaitant commersilization of the book. *sigh*
Tolkien tried to create a mythology of his own, for England to call its own. He took themes from very many mythologies, like the Edda, Beowulf, Kalevala (yay!), and Egyptian & Greek mythologies. I think he has succeeded already, in a sense. The world he created, together with its characters, races, histories et al., rivals any myth or tale because of its originality. Tales like the Kalevala told, at least mostly, of true places at that time. Tolkien created a whole new world, a whole new Time, where the events of his books happen. I think we should tak eour hats off to that alone, and the mythologies of the world, however ancient and great, should acknowledge its great realm of ideas.
 
A

AppleThorn

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Greetings -

I have also been wondering about this sort of thing. While it's true that an invented mythology, or 'religion' if you will, does not have the historical heritage and period of cultural evolution that one would see in the established theologies, I think that it cannot be argued that Tolkien based his work on many of these real-world influences. It seems that he took pains to see that his world fit in seamlessly with the 'real' one. Anyway, the validity of any mythology is strictly in the heart of the beholder. I have seen far flimsier movements catch fire and take hold of thousands of would-be followers. Remember Rajneesh? Est? Britney?

OK. I digress.

In the world of contemporary paganism, practitioners freely choose among a veritable plethora of gods, goddesses, beasts, and beanbags in formulating their own personal belief systems. One goes with Celtic Wiccan deities, while another chooses from the ancient Greek pantheon. So why not Elvish? Or Dwarvish, for that matter. It wouldn't surprise me to learn of such movements already underway, and perhaps thriving.

I would like to learn more about 'religion' in Middle-Earth. I need to read beyond LotR (no, I still haven't gotten to any of Christopher Tolkien's work - so I have much yet to learn). It has always stuck out in my mind that there was a pronounced lack of religion in the Shire, and few signs of spiritualism as we think of it at all (beyond the widespread enchantments of wizards and Elves). Truly pagan times.

At any rate, I would be vastly interested in any leads and links to studies that have been done in this area. Societies are largely defined by their mythologies. It will be interesting to see where this might go.

- A
 

Aldanil

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Welcome, True-Silver Two K!

For all those following along on this mythological thread, and on others exploring the religious aspects and implications of Middle-earth, let me commend again (as I have already in several postings) Tom Shippey's new book, J.R.R. Tolkien: Author Of The Century, and most especially its Chapters IV and V. The oldest legends of Arda and the ancient music of the Ainulindale were being woven in their author's imagination long before he had any inkling of hobbits or the Rings of Power, and bright Earendil whose song comes shimmering into Frodo's dream in the Hall of Fire in Rivendell was echoing in Tolkien's sense of wonder even before the First World War. As for the longer life in our literature and culture that these hand-made myths of his may hope to have: only future time indeed will tell, but their deep roots in the past bodes well for their fortune.
 
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Walter

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Aldanil: All You mention - and much more of course - can as well be found in Humphrey Carpenter's "JRR Tolkien - A Biography".
 

Evenstar

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I don't think that LOTR is a mythology in the same sense as Greek mythology and others. It was not acceptes as a religion or "truth," although it would be nice to think so.:) Mythologies accepted by the world usually are in place of a religion in this world but Tolkien ceates a new world altogether.
 

Earnil

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I think I have to agree with those three words that DGoeij said.

Time will tell.

Because all the older mythologies took many generations to seep into the blood of the civilizations that took them in as their own mythologies. And if Tolkien's mythology is to do the same I should think it will take many generations for that to happen.

And saying that it cannot be a true mythology like all the others because it was spawned from one person's mind really doesn't matter, for it to be considered a true mythology all that is needed for that to happen is the time for people to take it in as a mythology, and the number of people who believe in it.

Considering there has been over 100 million copies of LOTR sold, and if half of those people that read Tolkien's works take in the books as a mythology then I guess it could be considered as a mythology, because that is probably atleast 50 million people in the world. And with a following like that, then why not? it could very well be considered a mythology.

And afterall many of the ancient mythologies of times long gone now only exist on paper anyway, as does Tolkien's world.
 

DGoeij

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Difference is that the 'older' mythologies did not originated as a start on paper. The problem with the question about wether they truly did happen in older days is impossible to answer.
The mythology created by professor Tolkien, while the storyitself spreaded, is also known to be made up and this knowledge spreads with it. Also because it is said to be made up in the writings themselves. It is in my view hardly possible for the stories of Middle Earth to grow to the same form as the ancient mythologies.

But one can hardly be sure what will happen the next thousand (?) years. So, just speculation on my side.
 

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