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And the Word was made Script and dwelt among us

Friday, June 7th, 2019

{ by Charles Cameron — the embodiment of the word in script affords calligraphers of all religious beliefs the opportunity to illuminate the written script with beauty }
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And the Word was made Script and dwelt among us…

This would describe the indwelling of the numinous presence within scriptures, a doctrine found in the Christian usage that terms the Bible the Word of God, and even more explicitly in the Islamic doctrine that the Qu’ran is the Word of God in a manner equivalent to the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation — that is to say, Christians teach that Jesus is the Word of God, Muslims that the Qu’ran is.

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Incunabula had tweeted:

The historian Tom Holland picked up on this, and commented:

How incredibly beautiful. It looks like something out of Rivendell.

H’e not the only one thinking along similar lines — there’s a Reddit that’s relevant here: The Tibetan Script looks much like Tengwar to me…could it have been Tolkien’s inspiration for written Elvish?. So let’s take a quick look:

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Let’s take a look: DoubleQuote:

Above, Tolkien’s Quenya script from the inside front leaf, lower border, of the first edition Lord of the Rings, in comparison with the silver Tibetan calligraphy of the interior of Incunabula’s Perfection of Wisdom in 100,000 Verses.

To be fair, Incunabula’s 13th-15th century work in gold and silver ink is a remarkable work of art, and it may be fair to compare it also —

—with the 9th century illuminated gospels of the Irish Book of Kells.

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Beauty, anyway — the word becoming scripture in script offers us a manner in which some glimpses of beauty — transcendent sister of goodness and truth — beauty become word..

Authentic, spiritual magic!

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — from conjuring to gospel truth — third in a series ]
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Kwakiutl winter ceremonial mask, closed and open

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Here’s magic, as in my best recollection, a Pacific Northwestern shaman explained it to an anthro friend..

It’s my recollection that [Tlingit / Kwakiutl winter ceremonials] were both entertainment for the long winter nights and “schooling” for the young, and I have a vivid recall of reading somewhere a shaman’s admission to an anthro of the exact nature of the dramatic means by which the shaman’s capacity to defeat death was demonstrated.

I read this in the early eighties, but searching on the web I’ve found something that comes close — Clellan Stearns Ford’s record of Charles James Nowell’s memories in _Smoke from their fires: the life of a Kwakiutl chief_. Around p 120, there are two stories, the first about a girl who “turned the wrong way” during a dance, the second about a girl who is put in a box and burned. In both cases, the nature of the trickery is described but in the version I read all those years ago, the two stories were one — the girl who was put in a box in the fire pit and “burned to death” escapes through a false bottom to the box along a tunnel into the adjoining room, and her voice then issues as if from her ashes, via a kelp tube that goes from the tunnel to the adjoining room where she’s now standing.

She describes her descent into the sea realm, where she is chastened and eventually granted a boon to return to the tribe. A canoe sets out to fetch her, but by the time the audience sees it set out, she’s already secured by rope to the far side of the boat, and at a suitable distance is hauled aboard and brought back to shore, alive.

A child seeing this would be mightily predisposed to believing the shaman had healing powers, and by the time the ruse was revealed, that underpinning of faith is already in place.

In the Nowell version, even the adults, who “know” the deception involved, are deceived: “The fire burned and the box burned, and she was still singing inside, and then the box go up in flames, and they can see her burning there in her blue blanket, and all her relatives just cry and cry. Although they know it is not real, it looks so real they can’t help it. It was all a trick. There was a hole under the box with a tunnel leading out of the house, and the woman went out of the box and put a seal in her place wrapped in a blue blanket, and then someone sang into the fire through a kelp tube, her song. Oh, it looked real!”

One source I found recently online:

Tom McFeat, Indians of the North Pacific Coast: Studies in Selected Topics

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I would like to suggest to you that magic, if you think of it as imagic, has to do with image, and is usefully considered as another term for or related to, imagination..

There are a couple of other categoies I’d like to bring to your attention: (i) coincidences or synchronicities, which can border on (2) the miraculous, at its finest a sacred business, (3) poetry, at its most beautiful, true and good, (4) sacraments, defined as revelations of “an inward an spiritual grace” my means of an “outward and physical sign” — and (5) the Eucatastrophe as described by JRR Tolkien in his masterful essay, On Fairy-tales..

The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels — peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, selfcontained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.” There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.

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Magic: there’s more to it than advertising, but advertising may deploy it.

The erasure of boundaries — also, findings at the K/T boundary?

Monday, April 1st, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — Tolkien illuminates Arthur C Clarke, Robert DePalma may have made the discovery of a century or two, previous posts on borders and the liminal ]
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Arthur C Clarke, #3 of Clarke’s Three Laws:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Perhaps a bit facile.. when seen silhouetted against..

JRR Tolkien, quoted by John Garth in War in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, 1916 thus:

‘From the greatness of his wealth of metals and his powers of fire’ Melko constructs a host of ‘beasts like snakes and dragons of irresistible might that should overcreep the Encircling Hills and lap that plain and its fair city in flame and death’. The work of ‘smiths and sorcerers’, these forms violate the boundary between mythical monster and machine, between magic and technology.

That’s a DoubleQuote!

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There’s a parallel, if greater, boundary violation Tolkien points us to in his essay On Fairy-Stories, where he writes of the Gospel that “this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation” and declares, “Legend and History have met and fused.”

That’s true alchemy here — a sacred marriage, hieros gamos..

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Sacred marriage, too, is the topic of the 17th century predecessor of Tolkien’s work in fearful yet blessed spiritual fantasy, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz (1616) — beautifully translated bv Ebenezer Foxcroft (1690), and richly annotated in John Warwick Montgomery’s Cross and Crucible: Johann Valentin Andreae (1586–1654) Phoenix of the Theologians.

Other books on magic / imagination worth considering:

  • Lee Siegel, Net of Magic: Wonders and Deceptions in India
  • Ioan Couliano, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance
  • Henry Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi
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    Take a deep breath..

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    While we’re on boundaries, there quite possibly may have been a seismically major discovery relating to the K/T (Cretaceous / Tertiary, now renamed Paleogene) boundary on “The Day” itself:

  • Douglas Preston, The Day the Dinosaurs Died
  • .
    “When I saw that, I knew this wasn’t just any flood deposit,” DePalma said. “We weren’t just near the KT boundary—this whole site is the KT boundary!” From surveying and mapping the layers, DePalma hypothesized that a massive inland surge of water flooded a river valley and filled the low-lying area where we now stood, perhaps as a result of the KT-impact tsunami, which had roared across the proto-Gulf and up the Western Interior Seaway. As the water slowed and became slack, it deposited everything that had been caught up in its travels—the heaviest material first, up to whatever was floating on the surface. All of it was quickly entombed and preserved in the muck: dying and dead creatures, both marine and freshwater; plants, seeds, tree trunks, roots, cones, pine needles, flowers, and pollen; shells, bones, teeth, and eggs; tektites, shocked minerals, tiny diamonds, iridium-laden dust, ash, charcoal, and amber-smeared wood. As the sediments settled, blobs of glass rained into the mud, the largest first, then finer and finer bits, until grains sifted down like snow.

    “We have the whole KT event preserved in these sediments,” DePalma said. “With this deposit, we can chart what happened the day the Cretaceous died.”

    DePalma’s PNAS article:

  • Robert DePalma et al., Prelude to Extinction: a seismically induced onshore surge deposit at the KPg boundary, North Dakota
  • See also:

  • UC Berkeley, 66-million-year-old deathbed linked to dinosaur-killing meteor
  • Ryan F. Mandelbaum, Scientists Find Fossilized Fish That May Have Been Blasted by Debris From Asteroid That Ended the Dinosaur Age
  • **

    Earlier Zenpundit posts on liminality and borders, among them:

  • Liminality II: the serious part
  • Of border crossings, and the pilgrimage to Arbaeen in Karbala
  • Violence at three borders, naturally it’s a pattern
  • Borders, limina and unity
  • Borders as metaphors and membranes
  • McCabe and Melber, bright lines and fuzzy borders
  • Walls. Christianity & poetry. And nations, identities & borders
  • Limina, thresholds, more on spaces-between & their importance
  • with further references in:

  • The importance and impotence of language, #28 in the series
  • And another next, 26, mixed
  • Can you believe it? We’re at Chyrons & metaphors 19
  • Review: Tolkien Maker of Middle-Earth

    Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

    [mark safranski / “zen“]

    See the source image

    Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth by Catherine McIlwaine

    I have been a lifelong fan of The Lord of the Rings and of J.R.R. Tolkien generally, Tolkien being one of a small handful of writers who were formative influences in my youth and who remain favorites today. Therefore, I was quite pleased when Scott Shipman alerted me to the publication of Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth by Catherine McIlwaine. Other than Christopher Tolkien himself, there could not have be en a better author and editor of a retrospective look at Tolkien’s creation of Middle-Earth than McIlwaine, who is the longstanding Tolkien Archivist of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.  The book, which includes original essays by Tolkien scholars, including McIlwaine herself, is a companion catalog to the major exhibition of the extensive Tolkien collection held by Bodleian:

    The Bodleian Library will publish Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth as a companion to the forthcoming exhibition of the same name on 1 June 2018.

    The “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth” exhibition will be held at the Weston Library, part of the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, from 1 June to 28 October 2018. It will feature an unprecedented array of Tolkien materials – manuscripts, paintings and maps – sourced from the Bodleian’s archive, Marquette University in Milwaukee (Wisconsin) and private collections.
    According to The Bookseller, the companion book will be “the largest collection of material by J.R.R. Tolkien in a single volume”. It will also include “new” material, including draft manuscripts of The Hobbit, Middle-earth illustrations and paintings by Tolkien, and letters from admirers such as W.H. Auden, Joni Mitchell and Iris Murdoch.

    Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth is both a serious addition to any Tolkienphile’s library as well as a 411 page coffee table book full of resplendent pictures of Tolkien’s handmade artwork, annotated maps, marginalia, correspondence with publishers and authors, calligraphic character sketches from the legendarium and photographs from J.R.R. Tolkien’s life, many published for the first time. The essays, by John Garth, Verlyn Flieger, Carl F. Hostetter, Tom Shippey, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull as well as McIlwaine are thoughtful and reflective investigations and commentary on par with what readers would find in Philip and Carol Zaleski’s The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings. I particularly liked Shippey’s “Tolkien and that noble Northern spirit” and Garth’s ” Tolkien and the Inklings” but the entire catalog section contains informative and explanatory passages about the immense mythic legendarium that Tolkien created.

    Friend of ZP, T. Greer has weighed in at The Scholar’s Stage with a superb post about the importance of J.R.R. Tolkien as a literary figure that is a must read for fans of Middle-Earth:

    On The Tolkienic Hero

    ….Here I’ve sketched out an archetypal template. This is the template upon which the vast majority our era’s hero-tales are crafted. This is the story of Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Luke Skywalker, and Jack Ryan. It is Captain America and Spiderman. It is the central trope of science fiction, fantasy, international thrillers, super hero stories, and their “YA literature” counterparts. It is the myth that drives the imaginations of our times.

    For all of this we have John Ronald Reuel Tolkien to thank. I am sympathetic to the argument that Tolkien is the seminal Anglophone author of the 20th century. Perhaps his literary craft is deft enough to deserves that title. Perhaps it is not. Either way I wager that in a few centuries time when our descendants’ literary memory has collapsed our age down to one author (as we have done with the ages of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton), Tolkien will be the man remembered. This is not just because Tolkien’s works have been fantastically popular, even decades after its first publication, and in cultural milieus quite divorced from its creation. Nor it is because in Tolkien we find the genesis of so many of our era’s most popular genres (fantasy, science fiction, role playing games, and so forth). Tolkien’s influence is both subtler and more fundamental than this. Tolkien redefined the way popular literature treats many of its most common themes. This post looks at only one of those themes, but I am comfortable with the contention that Tolkien’s work embodies an entire era’s way of understanding the world. It is hard to say if Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings actually created the central cultural currents of our age or if it is simply their most prominent and enduring incarnation. Either way, Tolkien’s work is here to stay.

    Readers familiar with Lord of the Rings will immediately see the connections between my opening sketch and the tale of Tolkien’s ring-bearer. I am not going to devote an entire essay to this topic—a great deal has already been written about Tolkien’s conception of good and evil, power, corruption, innocence, and heroism, and I see no reason to repeat others’ feats here—but I will emphasize two points that deserve strong restatement.

    The first point: An aversion to glory is not just the defining character trait of the novel’s central hero. The distinction between greatness and power as goods to be strived for versus greatness and power as burdens to be carried is the distinction that sets apart almost of all of the novel’s protagonists from their foils. It is the defining difference between Frodo and Smeagol, Faramir and Boromir, Aragorn and Denethor, and Gandalf and Saruman. The second trait saves Galadriel in exile; the first corrupts Sauron anew after his master’s defeat. If one is allowed to describe objects as foils, this same distinction sets Sauron’s rings, key to his strategy for corrupting Middle Earth, as a foil to the methods of the ‘wizards’ sent from Western lands to save Middle Earth….

    Read the rest here.

    Tolkien’s influence will be here to stay for many an age.

    For Jim Gant, On the Resurrection, 02

    Monday, April 9th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — this is really the opening salvo, bracketing the ineffable ]
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    Question #2 is the real shaker, though..

    Did the Resurrection really happen?

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    Here’s the key para from Tolkien:

    I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairystory, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, selfcontained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.” There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.

    **

    What happens, in other words, when imagination enters factual reality?


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