September 21, 2013

Reasons to Like Tolkien (ca. 2001)

Jenny Turner, London Review of Books - the whole conversation strongly parallels the Eliot/Lewis debate on Hamlet:

[I]t’s much harder to find someone writing sensibly at length about what exactly is wrong with Tolkien’s novel. Obviously there is a problem with the elves and so on. Obviously there is a problem with the prose. Obviously there are problems to do with women, and race and racism, and the general matchstick-cathedral labour-of-madness nature of the project. But if it’s really that bad, why do so very many people like it so enormously? Are the intellectuals just flinging up their hands and saying that it is in the nature of things liked by lots of people that they will be no good?


Also, in case you were wondering how seriously Tolkien took his languages, one of the Elven languages appears to be deeply influenced by Finnish (source).  What did Tolkien know about Finnish, I hear you ask.  Well, as a teenager he became deeply interested in the Kalevala, which, as every schoolchild knows, is a compilation of ancient Finnish rune-songs, and the last surviving remnant of an oral tradition going back thousands of years.  And, to understand this lore better, he taught himself Finnish.

And then there's this.


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