Thread: TOLKIEN TALKED DOWN TO CHILDREN IN THE HOBBIT - OR DID HE?
Personally, I'm a bit in the middle. I like Flower Fairies, Tree Sprites and all the rest, as well as the Old Gods and Nature Spirits of Full Stature.
As to Elves I have a problem with Hobbit elves, they are more reminiscent of the sort of Victorian basterdisation of older myths and folklore which Tolkien seemed in later life to so strongly dislike. After all the hard work Tolkien put into reinventing them it might be a shame to leave people with the old version.
Tolkien often says things directly to the reader, sometimes with slightly moral effect, though more usually to include a dash of humor. This is where the 'talking down' bit comes in with some people. But I found no problem with it when I first read the book, nor have I since. No, for me it was an integral part of a pleasurable experience. I enjoyed it so much that when my children were younger, I would tell them stories in which I included certain Storyteller 'asides.' By doing so, I felt I included both teller and hearer in the adventure. Let's face it, if we like a tale, we put ourselves [i:1tutfaql]there[/i:1tutfaql]. And by having Dad or Mum (or the Storyteller in a book) [i:1tutfaql]there[/i:1tutfaql] with you, you can experience the excitement and danger but still have someone 'safe' on hand in case things get too scary! It also is a way to bring in humor smoothly, almost effortlessly.
So, in a word, I [i:1tutfaql]loved[/i:1tutfaql] the approach, and have never sensed any condescension in it at all! But Tolkien came to feel his approach was paternalistic and mere 'talking down' in the end. It's a negative view which I find really sad. What think you?
NB GB: I spose this thread should rightly be on The Hobbit part of this Forum.
Having said that, it is that "safety" which indeed conveys what some [u:1j0wx25e]erroneously[/u:1j0wx25e] consider to be condescension. Though in British children's authors that is hardly the case. British authors, including folk such as Dahl, Rowling and Joan Aiken, know that children are made of much sterner stuff than many American Authors--who condescend by bowdlerizing their stories to the point of Vapidity (a notable exception being Maurice Sendak). Much like the French did to the Grisly German Folk Tales collected by the aptly named Grimm Brothers. Thus British authors use various techniques, including the Intrusive Narrator and Biting Satire, to soften the Darker Material.
So I'm not certain that Tolkien believed THAT aspect was condescending. I have never read that he thought so. As memory serves, I am fairly certain it was mainly the "Twee" characterization of Elves in particular that he always regretted. And 'twould seem that Petty and I are largely in agreement on that score .
Though I think Tolkien more than ably retconned the problem in two ways. One, by making Bilbo the "Author" of There and Back Again, specifically in the manner of a tale for Hobbit children (in which Bilbo no doubt changed more Etheric Elf Lyrics into silly songs). And Two; by later building up a back-story for the Mirkwood Elves that set them apart from other Elves, as being more "fun-loving" and "less wise". Yes, he describes the Elves of Rivendell in The Hobbit as being "light of heart", but he didn't mean that in the "Twee" sense, rather that they wore the burdens of the World lightly.
As I mentioned GB elsewhere I think the Hobbit being Bilbo's version and not necessarily the only version of events does give the filmmakers more legitimate scope for alteration than they had fro LoTR.
GB, I'm not sure we have a consensus exactly. Mr Tyrant, you, at least, don't sound convinced!
I might add this too: my comment about seeing through my 'child's' lens is only one way of me 'seeing' the assides. I also enjoy them through my 'adult' lens as well. I find them wittily self-depreciating, and inclusive, for they include us in the jokes, especially we folk who are even vaguely well-to-do.
As to other issues you guys brought in. No, I don't find The Hobbit Elves noisome in any way. I think they're cool! The Rivendell Elves are merry but I don't think them ridiculous. They have a sense of humor, so what! So do I, but I'm not always joking, the serious and the silly in me are permanently mixed. (Yes, I've set myself up! Go on, Old Cat - do your darndest!) As to the Mirkwood Elves - they like a party, but they also remind me of all the Elves in the Silmarillion, the ones who never went to the Undying Lands. Hey! They [i:26isb15c]are[/i:26isb15c] the ones who never went!
Btw, I like Bilbo's version. It's the book version. It is not the LotRized version. We don't need the LotRized version. If it's not broke you know...