Today in Middle Earth

Tolkien alligned the events in Lord of the Rings with a calendar similar to the one we use today. This site tells you exactly what was happening in Middle Earth on any given day of the year.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

TIME - January 26

Today in Middle-earth.

January 26, 3019 (S.R. 1419)

(not from the appendices)
The Fellowship rests in Lothlórien. [Having defeated the Balrog, Gandalf's body lies on the snowy peak of Celebdil]

...... "They remained some days in Lothlórien, so far as they could tell or remember. All the while that they dwelt there the sun shone clear, save for a gentle rain that fell at times, and passed away leaving all things fresh and clean. The air was cool and soft, as if it were early spring, yet they felt about them the deep and thoughtful quiet of winter. It seemed to them that they did little but eat and drink and rest, and walk among the trees; and it was enough.
...... They had not seen the Lord and Lady again, and they had little speech with any of the Elven-folk; for few of these spoke any but their own silvan tongue. Haldir had bidden them farewell and gone back again to the fences of the North, where great watch was now kept since the tidings of Moria that the Company had brought. Legolas was away much among the Galadrim, and after the first night he did not sleep with the other companions, though he returned to eat and talk with them. Often he took Gimli with him when he went abroad in the land, and the others wondered at this change.
...... Now as the companions sat or walked together they spoke of Gandalf, and all that each had known and seen of him came clear before their minds. As they were healed of hurt and weariness of body the grief of the loss grew more keen. Often they heard nearby Elvish voices singing, and knew that they were making songs of lamentation for his fall, for they caught his name among the sweet sad words that they could not understand.
...... Mithrandir, Mithrandir sang the Elves, O Pilgrim Grey! For so they loved to call him. But if Legolas was with the Company, he would not interpret the songs for them, saying that he had not the skill, and that for him the grief was still too near, a matter for tears and not yet for song."


6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lothlorien is a fantasy within a fantasy.

More precisely, it is an elvish Enchantment within a fantasy, but for Tolkien the human art of fantasy is an attempt to emulate the elvish craft of Enchantment.

The members of the Fellowship lost track of time in Lothlorien -- they will later learn that time literally moves more slowly there than in the outside world. The weather is perfect and felt like spring, except that they felt about them "the deep and thoughtful quiet of winter." It is still January, of course -- at least outside Lothlorien it is. Like Niggle's Parish in Tolkien's story "Leaf by Niggle," Lothlorien is great for convalescence. In Lothlorien they are "healed of hurt and weariness of body," but they also have a chance to grieve, and to heal their minds and spirits.

Tolkien describes the elvish craft of Enchantment, and its relationship to the human art of fantasy, in his essay "On Fairy-stories" (a companion piece to the story "Leaf by Niggle"):

"We need a word for this elvish craft, but all the words that have been applied to it have been blurred and confused with other things. Magic is ready to hand, and I have used it above (p. 39), but I should not have done so: Magic should be reserved for the operations of the Magician. Art is the human process that produces by the way (it is not its only or ultimate object) Secondary Belief. Art of the same sort, if more skilled and effortless, the elves can also use, or so the reports seem to show; but the more potent and specially elvish craft I will, for lack of a less debatable word, call Enchantment. Enchantment produces a Secondary World into which both designer and spectator can enter, to the satisfaction of their senses while they are inside; but in its purity it is artistic in desire and purpose. Magic produces, or pretends to produce, an alteration in the Primary World. It does not matter by whom it is said to be practised, fay or mortal, it remains distinct from the other two; it is not an art but a technique; its desire is power in this world, domination of things and wills.

"To the elvish craft, Enchantment, Fantasy aspires, and when it is successful of all forms of human art most nearly approaches. At the heart of many man-made stories of the elves lies, open or concealed, pure or alloyed, the desire for a living, realized sub-creative art, which (however much it may outwardly resemble it) is inwardly wholly different from the greed for self-centred power which is the mark of the mere Magician. Of this desire the elves, in their better (but still perilous) part, are largely made; and it is from them that we may learn what is the central desire and aspiration of human Fantasy—even if the elves are, all the more in so far as they are, only a product of Fantasy itself. That creative desire is only cheated by counterfeits, whether the innocent but clumsy devices of the human dramatist, or the malevolent frauds of the magicians. In this world it is for men unsatisfiable, and so imperishable. Uncorrupted, it does not seek delusion nor bewitchment and domination; it seeks shared enrichment, partners in making and delight, not slaves."

Elves, then, can create a fantasy then step into it; what is more, they can bring others with them, and it feels real. When Tolkien writes his fantasy, and when Jackson films it, they aspire to this elvish craft, though of course they can never quite satisfy the desire to make the fantasy real. Magicians on the other hand attempt to make a change to the Primary World, or else to fool others into believing they have done so. Magicians (not stage magicians, of course, but those who claim to perform "real" magic) seek delusion, bewitchment, and domination; Tolkien and Jackson and other fantasists seek "shared enrichment" and make us their "partners in making and delight."

At the head of the list of modern magicians I would put Stalin and Hitler; I won't speculate about living magicians because I don't want this to become a political debate. My point is that the real magicians deny fantasy, indeed they may very well mock it, for they claim to be realists. But of course they live in a lie or deception of their own making, and often are far more out of touch with reality than the fantasists and their fans. As Tolkien goes on to say in "On Fairy-stories":

"Fantasy is a natural human activity. It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity. On the contrary. The keener and the clearer is the reason, the better fantasy will it make. If men were ever in a state in which they did not want to know or could not perceive truth (facts or evidence), then Fantasy would languish until they were cured. If they ever get into that state (it would not seem at all impossible), Fantasy will perish, and become Morbid Delusion."


Curious

February 5, 2005 at 8:41 AM  
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