Friday, August 12, 2022

Three are the things, I thought of in Tolkien lore

Well, actually lots more than three things as per my entire life, but these three lately, from my rereading of LotR.

1) Apparent double plot hole - but just apparent.

Let's take four scenes, which do not quite seem to add up, at a certain glance:

a) In Lothlorien, when leaving, the company are given cloaks, with the fairly obvious impression it is one per person, not more.
b) When Sam and Frodo leave, one of them says to destroy the boats, and the other says to leave one for themselves.
c) When Boromir is "buried", both cloaks are used to make him a bier and a boat (not leaking) to get him downstreams the river, hoping his corpse makes it to Gondor.
d) When the three runners, an elf and a dwarf and a man, make a certain pause, their elven cloaks are mentioned.

Now, this is the kind of thing that an editor would spot as plot holes and badger Tolkien to change, if they were of the modern kind that Jenna Moreci loves. And they would certainly not have allowed him plurals like "elves" and "dwarves" or an adjective like "elven" or a sentence like "helms too they chose" ... and as back then conlanging was not a thing, they might have cut down text blocks in Quenya or Sindarin very drastically. But back to the plot hole. One on which the editors would have concluded "why the epic burial scene - that's where the contradictions cluster!"

The most glaring part is the boats, and I can frankly find no better explanation than Frodo or Sam saying they were going to make holes and yet not doing that, and Tolkien forgetting to mention they changed their mind or forgot in the hurry.

Leaves the cloaks. I had thought of the fact, all of the company already had other cloaks before arriving in Lorien, so, they used the other cloaks for Boromir's burial. But the more obvious solution is, they didn't leave the cloaks with Boromir in the boat, except his own, they took them off the bier once the burial was done, and back onto their backs.

One use of Tolkien fandom is obviously a training ground for apologetics in the face of supposed Bible contradictions.

2) Between Middle-Earth and Narnia ...

I once made a list of 40 parallels between Tolkien and CSL, specifically Narnia. It included Etten Moors and Ettinsmoor, it included giants throwing stones for fun, and the travelleRRRs being a lot safer if they had been aiming at them, and quite a lot more.

Here are two. That the Wood between the Worlds owes something to Lothlorien, is pretty obvious - it may even have been on my list of fourty, one which I have long since lost.

But consider what would have happened to Galadriel if she had taken the ring - I'm sure I missed this one : it's Jadis. Galadriel even is kind of a giant, compared to Aragorn and Boromir ... Jadis is specified as being 7 foot tall (English feet). And Jadis is, three times over, "Galadriel, but having taken the ring" ... the last and most obvious time being when she stole an apple of immortality, but before that, in the world of Charn, she was so at least twice over, both when acquiring a secret and when using it - the secret of the Deplorable Word.

3) What is Tom Bombadil again ...?

Precisely as the (sometimes dreaded) Susan-fiction is the big fanfic in Narnia related fanfics, so what Tom Bombadil is, is arguably the great fan debate.

Now, let's start with a clue outside the lore of Middleearth, but close to Tolkien. Some guys have figured, The Green Knight was what was considered by anthropologists of religion a genius loci or some such stuff, and that Tom Bombadil was the same type of not quite defined in Christian theology supernatural. I am not denying that. Or the inlore idea he (like Ungoliant) could be parts of the music taking bodily shape (he for music of good ainur, Ungoliant for Melkor's discords) ... but there is another point.

The shapeshifter Beorn was very close to a genius loci too. See his relation to the Carrock.

And there are more parallels. There are hospitalities that are so simply earthy they are mundane. Bilbo's to the dwarves, Merry's and Fatty's to the three from Hobbiton, Farmer Maggott's and Butterbur's to the hobbits ... then there are those that are, if not elven, at least elfin, though in an earthy manner, in as much contrast with Rivendell or Lorien as Farmer Maggott to that of King Theoden. And there are two of these, Beorn and Tom Bombadil. I am now going to suggest, that as much as the bear was Beorn's "totem" so Tom Bombadil had another animal, whether or not he was shapeshifter or even mortal (Beorn had died before the main action of LotR, Tom Bombadil seems immortal).

There is an animal that can have its fur described by sometimes "yellow boots" and sometimes "blue coat" ... it doesn't wear hats, but on the head something can tickle like a feather. And the soles of what it has instead of feet certainly feel like leather.

It has different sounds, but one of them is a somewhat earthy, not at all aetheric, "song" which can send listeners to sleep.

It can bring the loved ones gifts that are decidedly not to normal human tastes. Confer how Tom Bombadil brings waterlilies - that means nenuphars, a flower bigger than most, but a small part of a plant, most of which is wet and muddy if you take it from one pond to another alive - the big leaves that lie on the water are wet on the lower side and the root of each is a yard long or more, reaching down to the muddy bottom of a pond.

The animal is decidedly "master" - if it jumps, it's not likely to land stumbling. But also prefers a territory with fixed limits and even witdrawing into limits even more fixed. Also known for great agility, like Tom and Goldberry show when serving. It is also known for being more casual than faithfully attached - it's perhaps from fidelity to Goldberry that he refrains from shapeshifting.

It is good at surviving getting wet but doesn't opt for the experience, and that is very harmonious with what Adventures of Tom Bombadil tells us, and at least two of the three animals he teases there are animals that this animal would also tease.

And Tom Bombadil is decidedly the happiest couple with Goldberry, even the happiest as an individual - as well as longlived - take an animal with a folklore reputation for longevity (veterinarians need not agree) and where in one language, its name is nearly homophonous with happy ...

On top of that, a poem about the animal says each individual has three names - a practical name (I think Tom is mentioned) and a bombastic name (Bombadil is not mentioned, but clearly fits styles like Quaxo), and a secret name (we don't get Tom Bombadil's secret name, because it is secret).

Hans Georg Lundahl
St. Claire of Assisi

PS - I had forgotten a third earthy-elfin hospitality that was not elven in Tolkien's sense : how Merry and Pippin are received by Treebeard and Quickbeam in Fangorn. So, Beorn to bears, Treebeard to trees, Tom Bombadil to x - or else x just was an inspiration for his character ...

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