Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Work by Mark Twain I Think Tolkien did Read

We know (from Tree and Leaf, I think, On Fairy Stories), that Tolkien loved Fenimore Cooper. And that from a rather early age.

We also know that when writing The Lord of the Rings, he was keeping meticulously track of things especially related to the progress in much of the time wild nature (how many miles men can walk a day, which phase of the moon it was which date, seasons, latitudes changing the impact of the seasons, so that spring and summer is earlier in South Ithilian than in Rohan ...).

Is there a connection?

Perhaps, if we knew Fenimore Cooper had done a similar thing, we could conclude that he was imitating his favourite author (I used an Italy related weather report for 28th Dec 2011 to account for the weather when Susan was in Narni on that date, supposedly 1949, and you can imagine where I got that from).

Now, it seems there is another author who claims that Fenimore Cooper did not do these things. His name is Mark Twain. It seems, then, that Tolkien in fact had read Mark Twain: Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences, which I am just now reading* - one which alerted him to what to avoid in order to not share Fenimore Cooper's mistakes.

However**, Mark Twain has his own inaccuracies.

Chicago is not a simplified spelling of Chingachgook:

The name "Chicago" is derived from a French rendering of the Native American word shikaakwa, known to botanists as Allium tricoccum, from the Miami-Illinois language. The first known reference to the site of the current city of Chicago as "Checagou" was by Robert de LaSalle around 1679 in a memoir.[18] Henri Joutel, in his journal of 1688, noted that the wild garlic, called "chicagoua", grew abundantly in the area.[19] According to his diary of late September 1687:

when we arrived at the said place called Chicagou which, according to what we were able to learn of it, has taken this name because of the quantity of garlic which grows in the forests in this region.[19]

In the mid-18th century, the area was inhabited by a Native American tribe known as the Potawatomi, who had taken the place of the Miami and Sauk and Fox peoples.[20] The first known non-indigenous permanent settler in Chicago was Jean Baptiste Point du Sable. Du Sable was of African and French descent and arrived in the 1780s.[21][22][23] He is commonly known as the "Founder of Chicago".

And while a cannon ball which doesn't burrow itself down into the ground will at first bounce, it is possible the last bounce will set it rolling in such a way as Mark Twain claims Fenimore Cooper was wrong to suppose in one of his romances. Also, Mark Twain is erroneously applying canons of novel writing to the romance genre.***

That said, the general gist of Mark Twain's words on these pages is such that it can have inspired Tolkien to greater caution in what is now often known as "world building".

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Wednesday in First Passion Week

* For page 1 of free online version: or

For buying a copy in paper and paid version:

Amazon: 11 results for Books : "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences Mark Twain"

** Someone is bound, sooner or later, to call me Hibbs! See Manalive, a book by Chesterton and a film I would wish for Mark Shea and others to release at least on youtube, if not in paid theatres. Maybe a bit like amateurs did with Born of Hope.

*** When Mark Twain upbraids Fenimore Cooper for being unprecise when using "unsophisticated," for "primitive" he was not noting that this sense of "primitive" was a recent one, depending on Evolutionist assumptions. Next item, "preparation," for "expectancy", he does not note that expectancy is a kind of mental preparedness which may have been as much "preparation" in Cooper's day as "mental preparedness" in ours. And if Cooper did use "fact," for "conjecture", well, very many Evolutionists are doing so to this very day. But generally, don't trust Mark Twain on non-contemporary matters. A man who can complain of "mental imbecility," for "imbecility" without noting that an earlier generation than his own may have called it a corporeal imbecility to have a cold, is a man capable of the gross historic inaccuracies of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and I don't mean introducing the time traveller, I mean how King Arthur's Court is supposed to have been up to his arrival.

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