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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Questions for February 9th "Tolkien Reader" Meeting

Questions for the February 9th Meeting on "The Tolkien Reader"

** The Homecoming of Beortnoth **
1) According to the fragment of the poem now called The Battle of Maldon, what were the last words of Beorhtwold, Beorhtnoth’s old retainer? What are their significance?
2) Why does Beorhtwold’s station make the principle he states more pure, clear, and profound? How can this have influenced Tolkien’s use of hobbits as heroic characters in The Lord of the Rings?
3) In Tolkien’s opinion, what other line is key to understanding the full force of the poem? How does this influence the “northern heroic ideal” and how does it impact the depiction of heroism in his works?
4) Compare and contrast Beorhtnoth’s death with the death of Thorin.
5) How did Theoden embody the “northern heroic ideal”?

** Tree and Leaf **
1) Tolkien seems to represent a sort of Old School Revival in reaction against a pernicious New School phenomenon. What examples of literature best represent each approach to fairy-stories?
2) How is the origin of fairy-stories related to the origin of language?
3) How is the modern assumption that fairy-stories are for children related to similar attitudes that comic books and board games are “just for kids”? What is the consequence of this banishment to the nursery?
4) Why is it that a need for fantasy actually increases as we age?
5) What historical event served to awaken Tolkien’s desire for fantasy?
6) Why is drama inimical to fantasy? Do the technologies underlying modern cinema address this deficiency? Why or why not?
7) What assumptions underly Tolkien’s concept of “sub-creation” and how is it significant to the development of The Lord of the Rings?
8) What is “Real Life” as Tolkien’s opponents might define it? How could one legitimately desire to escape from it? How is this illustrated in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?
9) According to Tolkien, what historical event explains the recurring themes of arbitrary prohibitions and fellowship with animals in fairy-stories?
10) What is “eucatastrophe” and how does it emerge in fairy-stories? According to Tolkien, how does this literary device correspond to reality?
11) How does Leaf By Niggle correspond to Tolkiens beliefs, aspirations, and his life? Would you say the story is metaphorical, allegorical, or something else?
12) Leaf By Niggle was written when Tolkien was not even halfway through writing what is now called The Fellowship of the Ring and Tolkien seems to have despaired of ever completing the work. If Leaf By Niggle is any indication, how did Tolkien expect his life’s work to be regarded after his death? Contrast this to how he is actually viewed today.

** Farmer Giles **
“This is the hour of the Shire folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the great.” — The Lord of the Rings, Book II Chapter 2.
1) How well does the story Farmer Giles of Ham follow the precepts outlined in On Fairy Stories?
2) How does the tale incorporate elements of historical and geographical fact?
3) How does Farmer Giles primarily gain his experience points: for killing monsters, finding treasure, or selling magic items?
4) How does the ending of the story comport with the implied end-game of the early editions of Dungeons & Dragons?
5) Compare and contrast Farmer Giles with the heroes of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

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