Thursday, February 16, 2017

Nature as a Politics in Tolkien’s Early Life

I have decided to focus on the influence of Nature on Tolkien’s life, and how it corresponds to his political views. Nature has long been seen as an influence in Tolkien’s life, and has often been used to paint a picture of his views on industrialism, war, and politics. While Tolkien himself may not have actually been predisposed to call himself an environmentalist, his disposition towards the development of the country and the beauty of the natural world is evident in his arts.

In essence, what I believe is that this focus on Nature and the natural order informed Tolkien’s political beliefs.

 My research began with the letter from Tolkien to his son, Christopher dated 29 November, 1943. (Tolkien 74). Here in, he states that his “political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy...after all only the fatal weakness of all good natural things in a bad corrupt unnatural world – is that [government] works and has worked only when all the world is messing along I the same good old inefficient human way.” (Tolkien 74).

The problem, I have found with researching the politics of Tolkien is that the majority of the work is conjecture, derived from statements that were rarely speaking directly of politics, and this letter appears to be the few scant times he directly discusses the topic. But, I was able to latch onto his idea of a natural law; a natural order that the world was supposed to be in, and decided to focus in on that.

In the Tolkien Family Album, there is a description of Tolkien’s early life in Mosley, where he began his fascination with the natural world, and later lamented at the destruction of that beauty (Tolkien 20). Further, the book explains how a trip to Switzerland influenced his works in regard to the mountains and natural worlds of his stories (Tolkien 31). This led me to the idea then that, if we can extrapolate his influences in his works from nature, could nature have also led to other ideas and beliefs that would change his writings?

 I began to look through some of his works of art, and Tolkien focused almost entirely on the natural world in his drawings, especially his early ones, only rarely drawing or depicting figures of any kind (Hammond 10,11,27,28). Tolkien was obviously influenced by nature, but to what extent?

Hammond, Wayne G., and Christina Scull. J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator. Houghton
Mifflin Company, 2000.
Tolkien, John and Priscilla Tolkien. The Tolkien Family Album. Houghton Mifflin      
Company. 1992
Tolkien, J. R. R., and Humphrey Carpenter. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Harper
Collins, 2006.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Freewrite: January 26th, 2017: Carpenter, Part 3: 1917-1925: The Making of a Mythology

This is my freewrite from January 26th, 2017! Feel free to comment. 

I think, that Carpenter is spot on for his interpretation of why Tolkien never finished his works, never sought for them to be published. Tolkien himself had long spent time theorizing how to put into words how he felt; not that he was displacing god, or was one, but that he was sub-creating within the world of creation he lived in. He cared for his creations, loved them as he owns because, in a way, they were him.
                I’m an aspiring writer myself. The background to my computer is characters from a story I’m trying to write. I often spend hours working, thinking, drawing, writing, and rewriting their stories, trying to find a way to put them to paper, to share them and their struggles with the world. But….I am afraid. I am afraid of losing the life that they have, the sense of creation and adventure, exploration and opportunity that they represent as mere ideas. They are not bound to a fate, they are not written in their entirety, and their stories are unended.
                Why? Because, like Tolkien, they stop being alive once they're written down. They take control over my thoughts, and drive me, as I obsess over them, to do things. To think things. To explore the world that I have imagined and created, and live with the ideas and philosophies that I love. But when they are written down, their narrative arc completed, where is there to go with them?
                I fear that I will lose them in some way then. They stop being alive. This is why, in my experience, I often do Roleplaying sessions with them that are in great detail, but never write them down. I can get close to fully expressing them, letting them live, without ever having a word written down. I get to explore their lives, their choices, their thoughts as though I were writing them down but the only place they are cemented in is time.
                So, I think that this statement by Carpenter is true. True of any writer, especially of fantasy. We not only create characters with whom we fall in love with and care about, we also create worlds, languages, civilizations, systems and magic that exist  in some real, tangible way to us. It isn’t just a fantasy, it isn’t just an average idea lost in a sea of mediocrity, spirited away by the tides of the everyday mundane.
                My characters are real. Just as real as Tolkien’s character were to himself. I want to share them with the world, but I also want them to be mine and mine alone. They are precious; and so others would treasure them as well, but in doing so I lose the primacy of my claim.
                A literary critic, I believe, once said that the “Author is Dead”. This is a phrase here meaning that once the work is written, once it is published and given to others, the Author’s intent, perspective, etc., doesn’t matter anymore. The work takes on its own life and maturity, expresses its own themes and ideas that are separate, (perhaps), from the author’s intent. In this, authors are pressured into maybe not releasing everything, to keep working, especially on this like this, because we want to remain alive. We want something for ourselves.
                I think is important however, like parents with their children, to eventually allow the work we have created to grow and mature. Eventually, it must necessarily leave the nest. The only other option is the most tragic one. No parent should ever have to outlive their child. No author’s work should die with them, unpublished, unknown. No author should have to kill their work because they refuse to let it grow and adapt.