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In the next couple of weeks I will be transferring the POTW from previous years. To keep your reading pleasure at a comfortable and manageable level, only 2 posts per day will be posted in this thread and then locked.
You will notice another thread created for comments on past POTW.

POTW - Pre October 25, 2002

posted on 25/10/2002 at 15:56 This post was submitted on behalf of PlasticSquirrel who appears to have been chased up a tree by a large dog, or something like that...

Okay, finally we here at the Council have stopped arguing about who gets to pick their favourite post and when, and I get to start the ball rolling (and get to pick a post from as far back as I like, WOOHOO!) and I've picked for the first post here, this one:


Was Tolkien racist?, is a question that pops up more then teenage boys, well... I'll leave your imagination to that. Anyhow, back to the question, Was he racist? If you asked me this question six months ago, when I had just red LOTR then my answer would undoubtedly have been 'yes'. But after re-reading LOTR on two occasions, and reading some of Tolkien's other books, I can safely answer you, 'no'.

First of all let us deal with LOTR. No, it is a common misconception that all hobbits are fair-skinned. This is wrong, as one of the main groups of the Hobbits, the Harfoots, the most numerous of all of them, were said to have ' nut-brown skin' and it is probable that Sam was a Harfoot as there is a reference to his 'brown-skinned' hand somewhere in book six of LOTR. So there were good people who were of darker skin.

Bu they were not alone. The Breemen, who were descendents of the Dunlendings, were dark skinned peoples, are for the most part good natured, and even the Dunlendings who fought against Rohan, were not evil, they were just peeved at the fact that Rohan and thousands of years before, the Numenoreans stole their countries, and they were also tricked or deluded, whichever one you want to take, by Saruman. Some of the Rohirrim probably interacted with them and some even had 'mixed race' children with them, an obvious example is Erkenbard, who knew their tongue and showed pity to them when they lost the war, whilst they expected to be burnt, a lie of Saruman to get them to side with him.

Also remember the 'swarthy skinned' people who marched for Gondor and also remember Sam's thoughts when he found the brown skinned southerner dead, and he wondered whether i.e. was evil at all or whether he was forced to go, possibly by fear of Sauron, like the Dunlendings were by Saruman. Remember we never get to meet any peoples of Rhun, Khand or Harad and so we never know what they were like and also remember one of Tolkien's main beliefs that nothing is evil in it's beginning which is said by someone at the council of Elrond. ( It was Elrond wasn't it, but it might have been Gandalf or possibly Aragorn or Glorfindel.)

The woses who helped Rohan, were certainly a pigimous folk. The Dunedain of the north and south were said to be darker of skin, which gives one a Roman or even Egyptian feel about them. The icemen of Forochel were also a Eskimo-type of people.
Which begs the question, What will Peter Jackson do now? Well ,when you are making a movie coming from a such a controversial book, then you **** well research your **** . Now if I, who found all of this out in six to seven months, reading a few books, looking up stuff on the internet, can find this out, when Jackson, who has had years to research his stuff and has probably had advisors hasn't found this stuff out I don't know. To take away some of the controversy, he could have made some of the Hobbits darker skinned and the breemen likewise and still have stayed true to the book. But he hasn't. But the film can still be saved from controversy. In the battle of the Pelennor fields, he could even the flow, lessening the controversy by making the number of darker and paler skinned people on both sides more equal, and I doubt whether anyone would have complained about this.

The Sillmarillion is in essence more racist. Whilst in LOTR, no one ever makes a racist comment, and people are not shunned because of their skin colour, this is done in Sil., by Turin when he says something about the Swarthy women being ugly. But again this is no where as near as racist as the Chronicles of Narnia, where the 'Calormen' peoples are oft subject to racist abuse and are stereotyped as smelling of onions and reciting poetry. ( I myself am of Indian origin, but was born in Britain and have never met any Asian person in India or here in England of doing any of these)

And also remember the peoples of Bor, helped the Edain and were certainly good people and the Druedain, forefathers of the woses were dark-skinned people, and people like Caranthir, Maglor and the men of Haleth were certainly more friendly towards the dark skinned peoples.

Also many of you may point out that all Elves are pale-skinned, but remember Tolkien bases these Elves on Northern European legends. But I would just like to say something about Eol. Now I know that he was called the dark elf because of his life in the dark woods and because he has never seen the lights of the two trees, as are many of the Sindar recalled as being 'dark elves', but when referring to that incestuous prat, Maeglin, Tolkien mentioned the fact that he has pale skin, so why mention this if all Elves are so? I know there is a very, very, very little chance of this being possible, but is it possible that the term 'dark elf' has a double meaning for Eol being dark skinned?

If I have annoyed or insulted anyone by using terms like 'dark skinned' then I apologise, but they were the best phrases I could use with out this taking way too much time, so I must re-iterate that I mean no harm in doing so. I also apologise to anyone who thinks that I take on a authorities tone to my essay thingys/. I don't know everything and I do not intend to make it so.

From Inderjitsanghera on 20/10/2002.

I chose this post because it is very well-argued, ever so slightly controversial, and well, mainly because it made me think for once. Also it brought to my attention ideas that I had never previously thought of. Nice one, and thanks very much Indy

POTW- Pre-November 5, 2002
Grondmaster posted:
Okay, so it is a little late, but here is my pick:

No one loved Frodo like Sam did - that was the entire point of their relationship! Sam didn't sacrifice for the quest, he sacrificed for Frodo - that was his one great flaw. He was not dedicated to the quest = some people are converted to the mission, and others to missionaries - it's not the same thing.

Frodo couldn't have made it without Sam. I think being Frodo's protector was Sam's calling - he only did what was required of him - but he rose so splendidly to the occasion. I believe that is what Tolkien was trying to point out with his character - that we can all rise to the occasion, some have to rise a little bit higher, but they are of no less value in the big picture.

Posted by Swampfaye on 3/11/2002

I chose this because it helped me think about good old Sam in a different light

posted on 11/11/2002 at 17:47
We have chosen two posts by Eryan as the post of the week. They are both related and equally good so we are posting both.

I like the way she has used Tolkien's work to respond to Raptor's post. I think this is exactly what Tolkien wanted people to find in LOTR. Hope.
This is a perfect example of 'applicability'. Relating the events in Middle Earth to the reader's environment.
Well done, Eryan!

posted on 9/11/2002 at 18:27

Meaningless, Raptor? I do not feel so!
I will answer you by a quote from the "Silmarillion", a fragment of the song sang by Beren when parting on his hopeless errand...

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Though all to ruin fell the world
and were dissolved and backward hurled
unmade into the old abyss,
yet were its making good, for this -
the dusk, the dawn, the earth, the sea -
that Luthien for a time should be
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And yet another quote, this time from FOTR:

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"I have never been out of my land before. And if I had known what the world outside was like, I don't think I should have had the heart to leave it"
"Not even to see fair Lothlorien?" said Haldir "The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair; and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater
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This world, our world, is inhabited not only by evil, cruel, heartless, selfish, twisted men... but also by many beautiful people, noble, heroic, benevolent, ready to self-sacrifice, intelligent, creative... Let us not forget that when all seems hopeless!

posted on 10/11/2002 at 20:49

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It's true that this is a hard world but still I believe from all my heart that we should do our best to make it a better place - to be as noble and creative as possible!
ME was no paradise either and many of his heroes felt hopelessly miserable and caged... Some of them even finished by committing suicide, especially during the First Age, when the war against Morgoth was hopeless. Rian, Hurin, Turin... Aand even in the Third Age there was so much of misery and hopelessness. Exiled dwarves (Thorin & Comp.) during many years were very poor and had to work in coal mines. In Rohan Eowyn hated her life so much that she could not sleep... And even proud princes were not free from grief. Boromir and Faramir were half-orphans, they had lost their mother when still very young. And the mother of Elladan and Elrohirwas captured and tormented by the Orcs... The world created by Tolkien is not really different from ours in that respect...
As for beauty, I have seen in this here world some breathtakingly beautiful places which left me wonderful memories... Some of these places were close to Cluj Raptor!

posted on 19/11/2002 at 00:18
Well it's my turn to choose this week's Post of the Week, and I must say the decision has not been an easy one. Over the past week I had made a note of several posts that had particularly caught my eye, and although I have spent the past hour re-reading them over and over, choosing one above the rest was not easy.

Because there have been some excellant posts this week, I would like to just highlight a few of the runners-up that could so easily have won.

LotR's Films>FotR> Extended FOTR DVD edition... Proghead, on 15/11/02 wrote a review of the special edition DVD that was so positive (and I like positive) I went out and bought it the next day. You should become a salesman Prog.

The Author>Was Tolkien a Racist or What.... On 11/11/02 and the following days Proghead and Mellie had a discussion over three posts about the dangers of stereotyping people. All three posts were really good.

Eryan.... What can I say, Eryan? You had three posts on my shortlist this week. I particularly liked your acceptance speach for winning last week's POW, but couldn't justify allowing an acceptance speach a winners medal itself.

The winner though is this one by Alfirin...

It is an interesting thought isn't it?
I think fantasy is so intriguing mainly beacuse it is so 'un-real'. It allows us to explore our dreams and wishes; it lets us enter the world on the other side of the mirror.
In this place we are free of the restraints placed upon us in the 'real' world - I quite despise to call it that actually... To me, who has always been through that mirror, I find the notion of the 'real' and 'un-real', as applied to our world and fantasy to be a very thin thread indeed. Of course the need to distinguish between the two has always been an imperative part of our existence here, as we can live only wholly in one or the other but never in both. Fantasy is that tantaslising world we can never completely enter, but in the end can be far more real than that which we percieve to be 'real' right now. It lets us escape and be free in the place where we can do anything, and yet still reflects our common hopes, fears and desires:

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For in the end it is Middle-earth and its dwellers we love, not Tolkien's considerable gift in showing it to us. I said once that the world he charts was there long before him, and I still believe it. He is a great enough magician to tap our most common nightmares, daydreams, and twilight fancies, but he never invented them either: he found them a place to live, a green alternative to each day's madness here in a poisoned world. We are raised to honour all the wrong explorers and discoverers - thieves planting flags, murderers carrying crosses.
Let us at last praise the colonizers of dreams.
- Peter S. Beagle
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I have always been the romantic dreamer and I like to be. I could not stay sane without going ever so slightly insane. I could not live in this world without living in other worlds, and I could never be me without being someone else.
Books and stories are the gateways, and the worlds within them are your to explore and explore freely and fully.
The scientists, the analysts and the minds that rely on the real world cannot often comprehend the value of 'fantasy'. It is so 'unrealistic' of course... which is exactly why I love it! I pity those who can not or will not enter that place again.
As Einstein put it:

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Knowledge is nothing. Imagination is everything.
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This is quite extreme however and I do not entirely agree with this - though it certainly provides an interesting viewpoint.

*well* I did go on quite a bit didn't I?
Never mind - but I would like to leave you with this:

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You can never read too many books!
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PS. I am only 15 which is proof that you are never too young, too old or too influenced by modern society to enjoy and love fantasy if you want to: I would much rather be at home reading, writing or drawing then going out to parties, getting drunk, smoking, or even getting my driver's license!

I thought this was a very thought provoking post and I recognised most of the ideas within it as things that have occurred to me in the past too. I like the idea of living behind the mirror, and I'm sure I've spent a good bit of time behind there myself, looking out. There are a couple of nice quotations in there too which fitted in very nicely with the theme of the thread.

I have a piece of music by Alan Parson's Project in which a theme similar to this is read with eerie background strings by Orson Wells. While reading this post, I could almost hear Orson Wells narrating it.

Well done Alfirin. An excellant post

posted on 27/11/2002 at 11:26

This week, one of Glorfinel's post has been chosen.

Glorfinel posted on 26/11/2002 at 07:45 AM

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I had read bits and pieces of the Sil over a while and I finally got through it from beginning to end last year. It is very dense. It is really good, as well. The style took a lot of getting used to. I have just started reading it again a week ago. It's going a lot faster this time.

One of my good buddies, who is at least as Tolkien Geeky as me, if not more, gave me some advice that has helped me alot. Try to read it and hear the words in you head. Imagine that it is a storytelling and you're listening. This has actaully helped me a lot.

The truth is that the Silmarillion is what Tolkien prized the most out of his Middle Earth works. It is the great history created to contain the Languages that he made. I think that if he had lived and completed it himself, rather then his son having to bring it all together in a tremendous effort, I think it would have been huge, but an easier read. Christopher Tolkien is good and has done a huge amount of work, but he doesn't have his father's flowing style.

In the end, if you love LOTR and want to know the greater depth, it's worth reading. But it is not easy.

One of my biggest wishes is that Tolkien had finished the Lay of Lethian and it would have been published completely in the Sil. Beautiful epic poetry about the story of Beren and Luthien. Incredible, simply beautiful.
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Valedhelgwath also deserves a special mention for several noteworthy posts this week.

Well done!

Posted Dec 7, 2002

Well, due to overwhelming popular demand, and my own opinion (though I was very tempted to put Ayslhyn's eloquent defence of the incredible Mr. Pratchett (see good fantasy books under general discussion, under website) as I thought it was fantastic, just a shame it had to be put in in MY week, at the same time as Eryan did what she did. And I think we all know what she did, in the Writers Guild, Evoking visions with very few words (I think it was called). So as called for Eryan gets her 2nd post of the week (though I think we're all agreed that "week" is becoming a bit of a loose term, but what the hey) and here it is.


Well, let's hope that this time this looooong post will pass through!
One of the greatest skill of a writer is to be able to evoke complex, rich visions using just a few words. The works of J.R.R.Tolkien provide some of the most beautiful examples of that skill. I choose several quotes to illustrate my point and I invite you all to provide more quotes illustrating writing skills, not only from the works of Tolkien, but also from other books!
The first quote is taken from "The Hobbit" and I already posted it in some other thread some time ago, but I will remind it here once more, because I am particularly fond of it:

He looked down between his dangling toes and saw the dark lands opening wide underneath him, touched here and there with the light of the moon on a hill-side rock or a stream in the plains.

Simply perfect! No need of any more words to visualize what Bilbo saw "between his dangling toes"...
Now another quote, a little longer, from the tale of Aldarion and Erendis from Unfinished Tales:

That night Erendis awoke, and a sweet fragrance came through the lattice; but the night was light, for the full moon was westering. Then leaving their bed Erendis looked out and saw all the land sleeping in silver; but the two birds sat side by side upon her sill.

This was the first night of Erendis and Aldarion after their wedding, and in my opinion Tolkien succeeded very well in invoking the feeling of fulfilment, peace, bliss, tenderness, calm and romantic mystery. I like very much the expression "alll the land sleeping in silver".
Both these quotes have yet one thing in common, moonlight! Here are still two more of my favourite moonlight quotes:
The Two Towers:

Down the face of a precipice, sheer and almost smooth it seemed in the pale moonlight, a small black shape was moving with its thin limbs sprayed out. Maybe its soft clinging hands and toes were finding crevices and holds that no hobbit could ever have seen or used, but it looked as if it was just creeping down on sticky pads, like some large prowling thing of insect-kind.


They peered down at the dark pool. A little black head appeared at the far end of the basin, just out of the deep shadow of the rocks. There was a brief silver glint, and a swirl of tiny ripples. It swam to the side, and then with a marvellous agility a froglike figure climbed out of the water and up the bank. At once it sat down and began to gnaw at the small silver thing that glittered as it turned; the last rays of moon were now falling behind the stony wall at the pool's end.

As we can see, Tolkien describes in an impressionist way what appears to our eyes in the light (in that case, moonlight), and not states what it was (he is writing "the small silver thing that glittered as it turned" instead of "a fish").
But Tolkien is painting his landscapes using not only light, but also shadows:
The evening on Barrow-Wights (FOTR):

They woke suddenly and uncomfortably from a sleep they never meant to take.The standing stone was cold, and it cast a long pale shadow that stretched eastward over them.

The description of Cerin Amroth (FOTR):

The sky was blue, and the sun of afternoon glowed upon the hill and cast long green shadows beneath the trees.

Riders of Rohan (ROTK):

Day was waning. In the last rays of the sun the Riders cast long pointed shadows that went on before them.

Now two more quotes (both from from the chapter on Turin Turambar, from The Silmarillion) showing that sometimes a single word well used is sufficient to create the atmosphere:

They found Turin fettered hand and foot and tied to a withered tree; and all about him knives that had been cast at him were embedded in the trunk, and he was senseless in a sleep of great weariness.

A very dense description, yet we can see that scene and, more, we can imagine very well the scenes which preceded it. The fact that the tree is withered reinforces the feeling of bareness, weariness and despair.

When morning came the storm was passed away eastward over Lothlann, and the sun of autumn shone hot and bright; but believing that Turin would have fled far away from that place and all trace of his flight be washed away, the Orcs departed in haste without longer search and far off Gwindor saw them marching over the steaming sands of Anfauglith.

These steaming sands! I simply can see them, and small dark shapes of marching Orcs, tiny black shadows in bright autumn sun!
Sometimes the feeling of "being there" is so strong because Tolkien's writing induces in us multimodal imaginations, engaging not only our sense of vision, but also of hearing and smell. Here are several examples;
First, vision + hearing:
The first quote is from The Silmarillion and tells of Hurin released from Angband and trying to find solace in Gondolin:

Hurin stood in despair before the silent cliffs of the Echoriath, and the westering sun, piercing the clouds, stained his white hair with red. Then he cried aloud in the wilderness, heedles of any ears, and he cursed the pitiless land; and standing at last upon a high rock he looked towards Gondolin and called in a great voice: "Turgon, Turgon, remember the Fen of Serech! O Turgon, will you not hear in your hidden halls?" But there was no sound save the wind in the dry grasses. "Even so they hissed in Serech at the sunset" he said; and as he spoke the sun went behind the Mountains of Shadow, and a darkness fell about him, and the wind ceased, and there was silence in the waste.

That wind hissing in dry grasses! In Serech, Hurin saved his friend Turgon but paid a great price: lost his freedom and drew a dark doom on all his kin. It was a fate worse than death. Now Turgon's silence and rejection was like a second death, perhaps even more bitter. And both times that wind hissing in dry grass... Awesome!
Now several quotes from LOTR, also illustrating the use of both vision and hearing:
A morning in Buckland:

The leaves of trees were glistening, and every twig was dripping; the grass was grey with cold dew. Everything was still, and far-away noises seemed near and clear: fowls chattering in a yard, someone closing a door of a distant house.

The first sight of the Vale of Morgul:

To the left lay darkness: the towering walls of Mordor; and out of that darkness the long valley came, falling steeply in an ever-widening trough towards the Anduin. At its bottom ran a hurrying stream: Frodo could hear its stony voice coming up through the silence; and beside it on the hither side a road went winding down lika a pale ribbon, dwon into chill grey mists that no gleam of sunset touched. There it seemed to Frodo thast he descried far off, floating as it were on a shadowy sea, the high dim tops and broken pinnacles of old towers forlorn and dark.

Now, two LOTR quotes on vision + smell:
Rohan, a place where Pippin looked into a palantir:

The sides of the glen were shaggy with last's year bracken,among which the tight-curled fronds of spring were just thrusting through the sweet-scented earth.

Ithilien, on the road to Mordor:

The gorse bushes became more frequent as they got nearer the top; very old and tall they were, gaunt and leggy below but thick above, and already putting out yellow flowers that glimmered in the gloom and gave a faint sweet scent.

And, finally, let's have one with vision + hearing + smell all together: a ROTK quote, a description of a camp of Rohirrim riding to Gondor:

He could not see them, but he knew that all round him were the companies of the Rohirrim. He could smell the horses in the dark, and could hear their shiftings and their soft stamping on the needle-covered ground.

I also like that remarkable fragment of the Lay of Leithian telling about Beren coming to Doriath:

There Beren came from the mountains cold
and lost he wandered under leaves
and where the Elven-river rolled
he walked, alone and sorrowing.

These few words evoke not only a vision, but also a strong emotion: we feel at once sympathy and interest for Beren... without even knowing who he was and why he was alone and sorrowing!
Well I think this will be enough! Time to stop!!!!

Phew! It's a monster but well worth a read. Also noteworthy was Swampfaye's discussion of Sidekicks, but as it was an essay written for something else anyway, it got disqualified, though it was fantastic, and many thanks to Swampfaye for sharing it with us. But congratulations muchly deserved for Eryan once again.

Posted Dec 19, 2002
For this week I chose: Orange posted on 18/12/2002 at 23:03 in Assignment 4 under Reading Discussion Groups where we are studying The Silmarillion.

Beautiful is the strength of their (the Elves') spirits in standing against Morgoth...*snif*


Melkor ... is becoming weaker over time. Why is this?

It probably wasn't just because he put a lot of his power in his creations. I expect him being gnawed constantly by his malice and envy. That probably lessened him. Also Melkor wasn't enjoying his creations as much as before.
And throw in the light of the Sun and those terrible headaches from iron crown. Hard time for him.

I rather enjoyed her answer

Posted Dec 30, 2002
First, I want to say that I am very impressed by the many reviews that have been posted on the homepage and in the forum. They are all very well presented and points of views have be expressed very nicely. Most of us have been thrilled with the production even though, somewhat disappointed with a few scenes.
Prog made a post in which he offers an opinion on the difficulty facing any film maker when adapting a book to film which I rather liked.

Posted under Two Towers/Response to Tinweezl:


posted on 30/12/2002 at 14:33
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But if I hope that P.J. was not trying to keep the movie as much alike as possible because if so it was a poor effort
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I'm sure PJ realized from the outset that a direct translation with zero liberties taken would be impossible. Just like translating language. Phraseology, sentence structure, Idioms and colloquialisms all have to be changed, sometimes drastically, in order for everything to retain its original meaning and feeling.

The same goes for adapting a novel to a screenplay. LotR was obviously not plotted as a screenplay so it's only reasonable that things will have to be changed. I'm sure PJ, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens know this better than anyone at this point.

I like Prog's use of the analogy of translating languages because novels and filmmaking are also forms of communication with simlilar types of barriers when it comes to translating from one form of medium to the other.