Tolkien v. Rowling by Gandalf

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gandalf-olorin
Posts: 481

Tolkien v. Rowling by Gandalf

Post#1 » Sun Jun 19, 2005 4:23 pm

Since Dineniel seemed to be addressing her thoughts to me--comparing Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, and Tolkien--I think I ought to write something in response. I quote from Dineniel and then I comment.

"Rowling and Tolkien-Two Good British Authors

"I've seen Tolkien fans bash HP fans, Tolkien fans bash HP fans for bashing Tolkien fans (or jsut tolkien in general), but oddly enough, I've never seen a HP fan bash a Tolkien fan. Hmmm...

"It must just be the crowd I hang out with. ;D

"Anyways, both of these practices are wrong, Rowling and Tolkien have their own unique writing styles, and did not copy from each other."

COMMENT: First of all, you are not talking about the same kind of audience. In general, but I think in most cases, the Rowling audience is composed of younger people, people who have not been exposed to good literature, who have not been trained for what to look out for in children's literature. Tolkien, on the other hand, appeals to a broader audience, but usually to an audience more mature (at least when you're past the Hobbit), and to one that has some broader experience with both life and literature. The reason Tolkien is great is because, despite comparison with other authors, he still comes off superior to many, if not to most. But let's continue quoting Dineniel.

"Why They're Both Great

"Rowling: JK employs different tecniques than Tolkien, including foreshadowing. She lays down clue after clue and sprinkles red herrings. She wants us to figure out what's going on, and to make evaluations. I mean, she even egged us on "I had to put some things in because of what's coming in Books 6 and 7 ... I want you to be able to guess if you've got your wits about you." So, when it comes to intricate, I believe it's JK's strong point (Not that stuff in Tolkien isn't intricate, it's just different)

"Tolkien: Tolkien. instead, employs forces much bigger when he wrote his story. He created an entire world, worked actively to create several languages, and developed characters while writing in a strongly Medieval (Can't spell in the morning) fashion, while JK just writes constantly in the action. Tolkien is more focused on creating a new world, and new characters, to really hide as many clues as JK, but nevertheless, his work is to be respected, as he works with many main characters(LOTR) and shows their many ties, relationships, and ideas about different things and different people."

COMMENT: You will pardon me, but what you are citing as a big difference is superficial. Tolkien uses the devices you mention for Rowling but with much greater finesse. He certainly uses, for example, foreshadowing, since he has a grand tale to set before us, and such a device helps to knit together the parts into a whole tapestry.

What counts is what kind of characters the author sets before his readers, and what sort of philosphy/morality those characters use to achieve their part in the plot. In short, how does everything the author uses develop the theme, and what is that message that he is conveying to the reader?

Rowling places before us a main character who lies and disobeys his elders to get his own way, and she presents this as though it were proper and necessary to obtain her goal. This I can tell you as a parent and a teacher is a horrible thing, for it teaches children that they are allowed to lie and set aside their parents' directions for their own reasons. Tolkiens characters are portrayed in a completely different manner. Those that are bad are seen for what they are, and the consequences of their bad actions are also seen. Those that are good do not use evil means to attain their ends (e.g. the Ring). Even though fighting against impossible odds, with hope and help from Above, they come out well in the aftermath because of how they conducted themselves.

As a teacher and concerned parent, there is also the matter of the language. The characters in Harry Potter are talking like street punks. I for one do not want my children exposed to that kind of language. No one can possibly argue that there is any comparison of Rowling's command of the language and Tolkien's. Tolkien's very words tend to uplift and resonate in the mind and heart, even if he is only describing the lay of the land.

But to continue with Dineniel:

"Conclusion

"In conclusion, neither Rowling or Tolkien are better than the other, they just write differently. None of them copied off one another, and those who think Tolkien copied off Rowling: Why don't you throw yourself in next time and rid us of your stupidity.

"Yes, and I know there are many other things that make each of these authros special, but I think this is all we need right now."

COMMENT: But this is not the problem. The problem is when we try to compare superficial things that are really different. Just because these two authors wrote fantasy does not make them similar. Rowling has revealed in interviews that her underlying philosophy is to interest children in the occult. Tolkien (along with C.S. Lewis) is very documented in his aim of writing a "true myth," of showing the truth of (Catholic) faith played out in his subcreation. The two views are quite opposed. So the literature produced as a result of these views will be quite a contrast.

"Of Copying

"A quick little note in addition: Because Tolkien employed so much beauty, and different aspects of fantasy, it is inevitable that some elements of his works leak into the works of authors today. However, it is not copying. Tolkien does not own his elves (in general) just the aspects and habits of his elves, along with their history. So drop the idea of "Person A copied off Tolkien! They used the elves that he had in his books!" It's not copying unless they use a lot more than the elves' appearance."

COMMENT: I don't know about Rowling copying from Tolkien. She would not have been the first one I accused of that. There are authors, though, whose whole plotline and characterization have been lifted from Tolkien. For example, perhaps someone is familiar with The Sword of Shannara? Nothing but a cheap copy of LOTR.

And lastly, Dineniel:

"Finishing

"Please not that I have tried to make this evaluation as fair as possible, if I offended you by something, I apologize, but more likey than not, I will not fix it. If you are not one of these Tolkien or Rowling bashers, don't feel offended by my journal.

"Don't bash Tolkien or Rowling (or me) and have a nice day!"

COMMENT: I also have tried to be fair. I base my assessment of these authors on documentation that is available in print almost anywhere. Nor am I picking on you, Dineniel. You are really kind to dedicate your poetry to me. But in this matter of Rowling and Tolkien, I think you need more study.

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grondmaster
Posts: 25451

Tolkien v. Rowling by Gandalf

Post#2 » Sun Jun 19, 2005 5:45 pm

I also like Harry Potter and as far as I'm concerned, JK Rowling's writings are against evil-ocult, and against bullying. Rowling is not glorifying lying; the type of lying she incorporates is normal adolecent behavior opposing authority, and most young people soon learn that the consequences of doing so, out weighs any short term gain.

I will admit that Hermione letting Ron and Harry read and/or copy her notes and then correcting their homework before they hand it in, is against all eduational norms; though one might consider that as long as they learn from their mistakes, that she is merely tutoring them. I do frown on the direct copying homework, but as they are still required to pass the tests on their own, I don't think it is really so bad as long as they do.

Do I believe the ends justify the means? No I don't, but this is just a story and the characters have to live with the consequences of their actions and I believe they do. If today's children try to pattern their lives after only these characters, then society has indeed let them down.

The above is only my foolish opinion and may be taken with a grain of sand, a teaspoon of salt; or a cup of sugar; but if the shoe still doesn't fit, for heaven's sake don't try to wear it. :elfbiggrin:
'Share and enjoy'

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Amarië
Posts: 2785

Tolkien v. Rowling by Gandalf

Post#3 » Sun Jun 19, 2005 6:24 pm

I did start a reply to that journal a couple of days ago, but didn't have time to finish. I'll post a reply tomorrow, now I need to go to bed.

But Grondy gives a good advice, shoes that are filled with sand and salt are usually quite uncomfortable.
"Don't complain under the stars
about the lack of bright spots in you life."
Henrik Wergeland, Norwegian writer

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Vee
Posts: 2711

Tolkien v. Rowling by Gandalf

Post#4 » Mon Jun 20, 2005 7:21 am

I don't see any similarity between the two authors. I have read the HP books but I don't remember them the way I remember Tolkien's work. And I didn't read them as a 10 year old so I probably didn't appreciate them for what they are - children's books.

One good thing about HP though is they do appeal to the young 'uns and because of that they have encouraged young 'uns to read. Certainly my son (now 12) loves the books and can't put them down. That is a good thing. It is the same with the Series of Unfortunate Events books. He loves them.

Reading HP doesn't encourage my son to lie or cheat. He is aware enough to realise those things are wrong and that the characters are human (mostly) with human failings. Also, those 'failings' are but a tiny part of the characters.

I don't like 'street' talk, or 'text' talk but there is no getting away from it, in literature and visual media. It is part of life and society, always has and always will be. If a story is to portray life then it has to take that sort of thing into account.

HP reminds me of the Enid Blyton books I read as a child. The children know more than the adults and eventually sort things out etc... many adventures.... except Enid's kids all speak correctly, as was expected in those days of long ago, regardless of whether kids really spoke like that. It was, like the BBC News, a good role model but slightly unreal. We shouldn't expect all literature to provide excellent role models. Life ain't like that, bud.

I think we should give our children credit for understanding more than we think they do. They can read fiction, watch TV and know it is not real. And giving them the opportunity to do so helps develop the social skills they need. Use, not abuse, your imagination. It is a wonderful thing. I am suddenly reminded of a post in another thread where Grep mentioned Brian Patten. His poem 'Minister for Exams' tells of a crushed imagination. Google it.

So, my opinion ..... Leave Rowland for the kids, she's not that bad - not great but not bad, and let those who enjoyed HP as young 'uns to go on to read Tolkien. Tolkien is way, way above Rowland but he wrote for a different purpose and for a diffierent audience. Even Rowland's work has its place..

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floyd_n_milan
Posts: 551

Tolkien v. Rowling by Gandalf

Post#5 » Mon Jun 20, 2005 8:36 am

Well, I don't know what discussion is going on in here, but as far as I'm concerned, Rowling tries to talk about things, her brain can't afford to think of! For example, she talks about "some" power in the fifth book... errr what power? Explain it I say.... She tries to talk about death.. I mean comeon, no one can handle that part! Tolkien can afford to talk about death etc because he is the master of his own world. I think Rowling should stop trying to produce "matured" literature and keep it down to children's books!

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lord_aragorn86
Posts: 2241

Tolkien v. Rowling by Gandalf

Post#6 » Mon Jun 20, 2005 9:43 am

I think Rowling should stop trying to produce "matured" literature and keep it down to children's books!

Me thinks she should quit the writing business and try to live her married life in peace and quiet. Or one day her hubby will get angry due to the lack of attention.

So, my opinion ..... Leave Rowland for the kids, she's not that bad

And who be Rowland? A babysitter?
I am nobody.....and nobody is perfect.......therefore I am perfect.

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gandalf-olorin
Posts: 481

Tolkien v. Rowling by Gandalf

Post#7 » Mon Jun 20, 2005 9:45 am

I do apologize for contradicting esteemed members who have been here much longer than I (profound bow). Nevertheless, I have valid reasons for taking the position I have taken.

1. While Rowling denies that she was/is trying to lead children into the occult, she admits that she has based about 1/3 of her material on occultism (see interview at scholastic.com). To claim that she is not leading children astray and then to include these elements is rather disingenuous, to speak by understatement. No reputable author in the history of literature does this sort of thing without being justly accused of having corrupted youth.

2. The spirit as evidenced in the content and language of Rowling's books is definitely different from Tolkien and Lewis. Frodo must submit to the burden of his quest in order to rid Middle Earth of the Ring and of Sauron. Digory must resist the temptation to eat the fruit before he has returned it to Aslan so that Narnia will have protection against the White Witch. The characters in HP do not act in this manner. I find disturbing Rowling's statement in an interview, when she says to children, "Do what you want, not what your parents want." This is the kind of thinking which destroys society at its base in the family.

3. The spirit is definitely different in the "morality" underpinning the conduct of the characters in HP. There is too much blurring the distinction between good and evil by Rowling. It is quite alright to have a surprise ending and a character that many thought bad to turn out good. Shakespeare does that a few times. But it should not be a regular thing that the good characters turn out to be bad, and the bad turn out to be good. Rowling does this constantly. Then there is the way she portrays those in authority. Severus Snape is regarded as a bad character. Why? Because he enforces the rules and makes his students obey and do their work. You might think that this would be shown as the students' opinion which is not borne out by professors and is overturned by the end. No, not by Rowling. Snape is berated by other professors in front of the students for interfering with Harry's "adventures." Of course, this is like reality! And too much so. Any professor treated like this in the real world would be a laughing-stock to the students and would never get any cooperation.

But let us not forget how the kids treat one another. Harry originally treated Hermione like a pariah. Why? Was she a terrible child that he couldn't stand because she was evil? Hardly. She always did her homework and studied for tests. She wouldn't allow the boys to copy her work. Oh yes, the characters do show the author's view of how things should turn out for them. What happens to Hermione? She gets the respect of Harry and co. only when she lies to a teacher in order to cover for them. From then on, she acted like the other characters, i.e., showing them how to steal potion ingredients, how to sneak a forbidden book out of the library, etc.

Then there is Harry himself. He seems to embody the dictum "the ends justifies the means." In order to win the Triwizard Tournament in book 4, he has to cheat. Students, ghosts, employees, teachers--seemingly everyone gives Harry answers that he couldn't get on his own. Cedric Diggory (perhaps a play on Lewis' character?) is praised for his love of fair play. Yet this is not borne out when this boy helps Harry by giving him answers. In the end, one character apparently justifies this conduct when he says, "Cheating's a traditional part of the Triwizard Tournament and always has been." Indeed! In that case, what kind of students does this school produce? And what kind of impression does this make on the child reader?

4. I do not agree that we teach our children how to live in today's society by steeping them in the language of these books. This is rather like ignoring the presence of arsenic because it is tasteless and doesn't kill at once. Yes, TV, movies, etc., do contain like language. But you can watch a program with your kids and correct the impressions they are getting. You can turn off a video/DVD if it turns out to be something you don't want for your kids. But unless you are reading HP aloud, you cannot be there to correct the inroads the vulgar little characters are making into your child's mind. You might take away the book when you find out what it's like--but in most cases, this is like closing the barn door after the horse is gone. No, it is far better to forbid these books from the start. We can find many other books to get the kids hooked on reading. (We have a home library of something like 5000 books, over 1000 of which are for the kids, and no HP anywhere.)

Again, I am sorry if my staff has sunk too deeply into the anthill. I did not bring up this topic, but I could not in conscience ignore it either.

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Amarië
Posts: 2785

Tolkien v. Rowling by Gandalf

Post#8 » Mon Jun 20, 2005 1:34 pm

I'd like to start with saying that I really liked Dineniel's journal. Thank you, Dineniel, for writing it. It is rare to see a balanced view on Tolkien and Rowling.

Can’t find what I started to write the other day, so I’ll just start over. Let’s hope it all fits in one post.

For example, she talks about "some" power in the fifth book... errr what power? Explain it I say....
She will. The series isn't finished yet, remember? It’s like reading half of a murder story and complain that the murder hasn’t been found yet.

Gandalf-Olorin. I have read all the books so far and I love them. Let me tell you what I see in them.

Harry Potter and the kids at school are acting like children do at that age. You being a teacher should know what kids are like. You should also know that in real life as in the HP books, children and youths are very unsure of who they can trust. Who can I tell this to? Who will believe me? Who will understand? And as kids thinks they are they are the only ones who are unsure and scared, they often keep things to themselves or within the circle of friends. In the books we can see what they hide since the books are written from their point of view, in real life we can’t.

Children easily recognize Harry and his friends and the children around him. All the characters can be found in their own lives. The school nerd no-one wants to talk to, the clumsy boy everybody laughs at, the big bullies, boring teachers, scary teachers, teachers who treat you wrongly, teachers who treat you nice. The books are taking place today with kids of today, and children read it and nods. "Yes, this is the way it is."

The books are overflowing with moral, I am very sad you can't see that G-O. Yes, the children go off and do things on their own. That is because they don't know who to trust. But the kids in HP always have to pay the price for their choices. The consequences are always shown.

What child hasn't dreamt about being able to turn into an animal? Or to do magic? Or to snap ones fingers and be somewhere else. Or to be invisible. Rowling remembers the children’s dreams and fantasies. She mentions all these things and a lot more, but also shows that what might seen fun at first, may turn out to be something that can be misused.

Like Harry father and his friends when they were at the school. They broke the rules, and learned how to change into animal shapes so their other friend wouldn’t be alone. The thought was kind, but this ability was misused by one of the 'friends'. This lead to Harry's parents getting killed and Sirius was thrown to prison for something he didn't do.

And about Harry being a bad role model. He and his friends fight for what they believe in, they are there for their friends, they defend the bullied from the bullies, they are intelligent and use what they have learned and seek information on their own. They show that even the wimpiest child can be brave, that even the weirdest looking kid has something to offer, and that the biggest bully may not be as tough after all, and that not all is what it appears to be at first glance. I would rather have children who can think on their own and question things they don’t agree on, than small robots who go along with everything and obeys blindly.

Frodo must submit to the burden of his quest in order to rid Middle Earth of the Ring and of Sauron. Digory must resist the temptation to eat the fruit before he has returned it to Aslan so that Narnia will have protection against the White Witch. The characters in HP do not act in this manner.


Let's see... Harry has lived with with his unloving aunt and uncle his whole life. He has been bullied all his life, both at home and in school. Sounds like quite a burden to live with if you ask me. And did you read the end of book 5? If THAT isn’t a burden enough for a young teenager, then I don’t know what it takes.

In order to win the Triwizard Tournament in book 4, he has to cheat.

Again you have missed the point. It is Voldemort who cheats Harry. Harry didn’t want to join, but he was forced to. It is clear all along that Harry isn’t ready for all this. He is too young. The “help” he gets is there to ensure that Harry wins so that Voldemort can kill him. Does that sound like a good reward for cheating to you?

No, it is far better to forbid these books from the start.

I am very sad people still think this way.

I have no idea what part of the books tells children to join the occult. Please, tell me.

Well this should be enough talk for now. :)
"Don't complain under the stars

about the lack of bright spots in you life."

Henrik Wergeland, Norwegian writer

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Vee
Posts: 2711

Tolkien v. Rowling by Gandalf

Post#9 » Mon Jun 20, 2005 4:29 pm

And who be Rowland? A babysitter?


See! I couldn't even remember her name.

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miruvor
Posts: 849

Tolkien v. Rowling by Gandalf

Post#10 » Mon Jun 20, 2005 4:47 pm

It's no point comparing. Tolkien is literature, whilst Rowling is in the Jordan-Brooks-Eddings-Feist-Goodkind-Weiss&Hickman-McCaffrey-etc mold : popular/pulp fantasy fiction, books you can lay down at any moment and pick up again 4 months later, without having missed anything of the storyline. They're books without any real depth, which are only read once for one's enjoyment.

I can't see what's bad with that, anyway. It makes (some) kids read books, instead of wasting their time in front of a computer, console, or TV.

No, it is far better to forbid these books from the start.

Oh dear... it are just kid's books, not Mein Kampf or American Psycho. It's not even remotely close to The Catcher in the Rye. I doubt a lot of movies/TV shows/computer games/music would survive, if already HP is considered something to be banned...

I haven't read HP myself, but i have never heard any parents complain about HP containing any profane language or inappropriate content... i think, if this were the case, Ms Rowling would never have sold so much and it would never be this popular.

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