Does Pratchett miss the point?

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Richard Barrett

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Jul 16, 2002, 4:32:34 PM7/16/02
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Terry Pratchett was recently quoted as saying, clearly in reference to
Lord of the Rings and comparing it to his own work:

"Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
possibility that evil can be defused by talking."

Seems to me Pratchett misses the point, perhaps willfully so. First of
all, I think Tolkien makes it clear that evil is *not* destroyed with
the Ring's meltdown; Sauron is not the Personification of Evil without
whom evil cannot continue to exist, he's just currently the one who
has managed to become the most powerful (and he himself was originally
just Morgoth's flunky). The Ring's destruction allows evil to wane for
awhile, but Gandalf makes it clear that there will always be work to
do. Presumably, only Iluvatar can ever totally destroy evil, and He
will do so at a time of His own choosing. Until then, the fight must
go on, and there will be victories and losses. The Lord of the Rings
simply chronicles *a* victory, not THE victory.

As far as evil being "defused by talking" goes - I think Tolkien
presents a point of view that says to negotiate with evil is to allow
it to perpetuate itself. Appeasement can only be interpreted as
approval. Tolkien seems to say that evil must be dealt with at its
source; it can't be hidden, it can't be harnessed for good; it can
only be resisted and ultimately destroyed. Those who are evil can be
redeemed, but only if they so choose. Pratchett's whittling of the the
ring down to a "piece of expensive jewelry" appears to deliberately
trivialize its real significance.

Anybody have any thoughts on this?

-Richard

AC

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Jul 16, 2002, 4:47:41 PM7/16/02
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In article <bee09f80.02071...@posting.google.com>, Richard Barrett wrote:
> Terry Pratchett was recently quoted as saying, clearly in reference to
> Lord of the Rings and comparing it to his own work:
>
> "Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
> throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
> possibility that evil can be defused by talking."

That's pretty silly, but than again, this is Pratchett. I would look
elsewhere for literary criticism, thank you.

>
> Seems to me Pratchett misses the point, perhaps willfully so. First of
> all, I think Tolkien makes it clear that evil is *not* destroyed with
> the Ring's meltdown; Sauron is not the Personification of Evil without
> whom evil cannot continue to exist,

Well, he's an embodiment of evil, just as Morgoth was.

> he's just currently the one who
> has managed to become the most powerful (and he himself was originally
> just Morgoth's flunky). The Ring's destruction allows evil to wane for
> awhile, but Gandalf makes it clear that there will always be work to
> do. Presumably, only Iluvatar can ever totally destroy evil, and He
> will do so at a time of His own choosing. Until then, the fight must
> go on, and there will be victories and losses. The Lord of the Rings
> simply chronicles *a* victory, not THE victory.

This is the nature of evil in Tolkien's secondary creation. It is the
nature of Arda Marred, and just because folks like Pratchett who, if the
above quote is his, don't seem to have invested any time into understanding
this point.

>
> As far as evil being "defused by talking" goes - I think Tolkien
> presents a point of view that says to negotiate with evil is to allow
> it to perpetuate itself.

A valid viewpoint, in my opinion. I think that Neville Chamberlain's
disastrous dance with a 20th century devil proves that well enough.

>Appeasement can only be interpreted as
> approval. Tolkien seems to say that evil must be dealt with at its
> source; it can't be hidden, it can't be harnessed for good; it can
> only be resisted and ultimately destroyed.

Well, not quite. In the End, all that Morgoth and his minions have worked
for will ultimately turn to greater good. That is a central point of evil
in Tolkien's mythology; out of evil comes greater good. Perhaps Pratchett
should try reading something other than the comic book version of LotR.

> Those who are evil can be
> redeemed, but only if they so choose. Pratchett's whittling of the the
> ring down to a "piece of expensive jewelry" appears to deliberately
> trivialize its real significance.

I've been seeing some Tolkien-envy among some fantasy authors. They seem to
come in two groups; those who freely admit that Tolkien is among the best,
if not *the* best fantasy writer of modern times, and those who seem to go
out of their way to distance themselves from Tolkien. Though I imagine
there are a few fantasy authors out there who do not owe anything in a
literary fashion to Tolkien, he is the major reason why there is such a
large number of fantasy novels in most bookstores. There's nothing wrong
with that, just like SF needs the Larry Nivens, the Arthur C. Clarkes and
the Frank Herberts, so fantasy needs Tolkien. He isn't the be all and end
all of fantasy. Who knows, maybe tomorrow somebody will publish a fantasy
work that's head and shoulders above Tolkien. However, these attempts to
discredit, or at the very least, minimalize LotR by certain authors is
rather sad.

--
AC

Brought to you by Ed the Invisible Orange Iguana of Doom, Creator of the
Universe.

Chakaal The Indifferent

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Jul 16, 2002, 4:51:28 PM7/16/02
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In article <bee09f80.02071...@posting.google.com>,

Richard Barrett <richar...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>Terry Pratchett was recently quoted as saying, clearly in reference to
>Lord of the Rings and comparing it to his own work:
>
>"Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
>throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
>possibility that evil can be defused by talking."
>
>Seems to me Pratchett misses the point, perhaps willfully so. First of

Remember, if you will, that Pratchett is a humor writer. He is *going* to
wisecrack. Also remember that in Pratchett's books people are talked out
of things not by appeasement but by misdirection, hi-jinks, obfuscation
and generally having them become confused about what it was they were
going to do in the first place.

>all, I think Tolkien makes it clear that evil is *not* destroyed with
>the Ring's meltdown; Sauron is not the Personification of Evil without
>whom evil cannot continue to exist, he's just currently the one who
>has managed to become the most powerful (and he himself was originally
>just Morgoth's flunky). The Ring's destruction allows evil to wane for
>awhile, but Gandalf makes it clear that there will always be work to
>do. Presumably, only Iluvatar can ever totally destroy evil, and He
>will do so at a time of His own choosing. Until then, the fight must
>go on, and there will be victories and losses. The Lord of the Rings
>simply chronicles *a* victory, not THE victory.
>
>As far as evil being "defused by talking" goes - I think Tolkien
>presents a point of view that says to negotiate with evil is to allow
>it to perpetuate itself. Appeasement can only be interpreted as
>approval. Tolkien seems to say that evil must be dealt with at its
>source; it can't be hidden, it can't be harnessed for good; it can
>only be resisted and ultimately destroyed. Those who are evil can be
>redeemed, but only if they so choose. Pratchett's whittling of the the
>ring down to a "piece of expensive jewelry" appears to deliberately
>trivialize its real significance.

Of course it does, but you must consider the source again. That comment
was straight Pratchett, funny and thought provoking. I would not take it
to think Pratchett considers appeasement to be a valid strategy. He'd
consider tricking the bad guy into shooting his own foot off, if he could.

Andrew Plotkin

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Jul 16, 2002, 4:56:52 PM7/16/02
to
In rec.arts.sf.written, Richard Barrett <richar...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> Terry Pratchett was recently quoted as saying, clearly in reference to
> Lord of the Rings and comparing it to his own work:

> "Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
> throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
> possibility that evil can be defused by talking."

I'd have to see that in context. The "jewelry" clearly refers to
Tolkien, but I don't know what "defused by talking" refers to. It's
certainly not Tolkien; it's not Pratchett as far as I can tell.

> Seems to me Pratchett misses the point, perhaps willfully so. First of
> all, I think Tolkien makes it clear that evil is *not* destroyed with
> the Ring's meltdown; Sauron is not the Personification of Evil without
> whom evil cannot continue to exist, he's just currently the one who
> has managed to become the most powerful

The quote doesn't say particularly "all evil". In the Ring story, the
evil *of that story* is certainly packed up by bunging jewelry into a
tar pit. Other stories precede and follow the War of the Ring, but I
presume Pratchett was referring to the trilogy, not all of
Middle-Earth.

> As far as evil being "defused by talking" goes - I think Tolkien
> presents a point of view that says to negotiate with evil is to allow
> it to perpetuate itself. Appeasement can only be interpreted as
> approval.

Yes, that sounds right for Tolkien. You fight as hard as you can,
limiting yourself to the means that are pure, and you might succeed.
Any other course is suicide.

Now, what point do you think Pratchett was making that contradicts
this? (As I said, I haven't seen the context.)

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

David Salo

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Jul 16, 2002, 5:06:46 PM7/16/02
to
In article <bee09f80.02071...@posting.google.com>,
richar...@hotmail.com (Richard Barrett) wrote:

> Terry Pratchett was recently quoted as saying, clearly in reference to
> Lord of the Rings and comparing it to his own work:
>
> "Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
> throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
> possibility that evil can be defused by talking."

Writers much better than Pratchett have made statements like this.
There are several problems with this kind of statement, however. The
most obvious one is that Frodo does *not* throw the Ring into the
Cracks of Doom; nobody does. A great deal of the story hinges on that
fact; not only does Frodo fail to "just toss the ring in", within the
context of the story nobody could have done so. Frodo had been sent on
the ultimate fool's errand, wild-goose-chase, mission impossible: he
was destined to fail. What's more, his failure is adumbrated from the
beginning, when he is unable to throw the Ring into his own fire. If
he could not do that, how could he destroy the Ring?
Why, then, did the Wise send Frodo to Mordor? It looks, in
retrospect, like the ultimate gamble; they knew perfectly well that, of
his own will, Frodo was unable to destroy the Ring. They were counting
on a miracle; hoping that, if the situation were of such a sort that
the Ring could be physically destroyed, Fate or God would handle the
rest. And so it happens that Gollum ends up in just the right place at
the right time. If there is a lesson here, it is not that you can
destroy evil be chucking a ring into a fiery pit, but that the most
impossible of obstacles can be overcome with a foundation of
perseverance and a pinnacle of faith.

David Salo

Heather Garvey

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Jul 16, 2002, 5:10:25 PM7/16/02
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Richard Barrett <richar...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
>"Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
>throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
>possibility that evil can be defused by talking."
>
>As far as evil being "defused by talking" goes - I think Tolkien
>presents a point of view that says to negotiate with evil is to allow
>it to perpetuate itself. Appeasement can only be interpreted as
>approval.

Pratchett doesn't say that one should negotiate with evil.
That's your interpretation of "defused by talking". Pratchett's
characters have a habit of *learning* through talk - often, it's
just about a person growing and changing and then renouncing the
"evil". And usually, that works better than beating up someone.

I read his quote more like "Bugger these quests where
the Big Bad is defeated by transporting the Magic Whatsit and
hurling it through the Mystical Portal and WHAMMO! the world is
magically a better place! You don't effect real change in hearts
and minds by ticking items off a list - you do it by changing
people, by showing them things in a new light, by your example."

A lot of fantasy books do indeed concentrate a great deal
on magical gimcrackery being brought together at the right place
and time. Sometimes, a sacrifice is made, but more often than not,
the clouds immediately lift and the evil minions disappear like mist,
and everyone rejoices, etc, etc. And Pratchett more often writes
about the changes of heart that make a difference one person at a time.

I know that Pratchett wasn't making any deep statement
with his quote, and he certainly wasn't claiming that that's ALL
those kind of fantasies are about, but that's my opinion of the gist
of it.

--
Heather Garvey "The school has lost its funding for textbooks, so
ra...@xnet.com you've all been given wildlife survival manuals.
Today you'll be quizzed on how to skin a moose."
-- Miss Bitters, _Invader ZIM_

Jens Murer

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Jul 16, 2002, 5:12:13 PM7/16/02
to

"Richard Barrett" <richar...@hotmail.com> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
news:bee09f80.02071...@posting.google.com...

> As far as evil being "defused by talking" goes - I think Tolkien
> presents a point of view that says to negotiate with evil is to allow
> it to perpetuate itself. Appeasement can only be interpreted as
> approval. Tolkien seems to say that evil must be dealt with at its
> source; it can't be hidden, it can't be harnessed for good; it can
> only be resisted and ultimately destroyed.

That's what happend in the Second Age, when the People of Numénor let Sauron
into ther Kingdom. Atalante is lost forever because they didn't see the Evil
among them.
But I can't say, if the Destruction of the Ring is NOT THE Victory. Of
course, there are Orcs and People of the southern Countries, but the Source
of Evil, 'Valar' (Morgoth) and Maias (Sauron and Saruman), are gone. I for
myself always thought of the Story as an alternate Legend, how the World we
live in was created. After the last Elf gone and Arwen Unómiel dying under
the sad Trees of Loth-Lorién, after transforming the World to a Sphere
(That's what the Valar do aus they took away Valinor fron Middle-Earth),
Hobbits and Dwarfs could be 'assimilated' by the human Race through
Centuries, only leaving Fairytales and Legends.
Additionally, the High Queen of Elves, Galadriel (Who ist NOT a Witch in a
blackblue Abyss where she makes mysterious Oracles in a black Pit, damn you!
This and your Failure in the Old Forest shall not been punished because of
Ian McKellen only!) says, that Isíldur lost the Chance of destroying the
Evil as he kept the ring after the Battle of the last Union of Elves and
Humans.
I guess, when talking of Sauron as the major Evil it can be destroyed by the
Destruction of the Ring and the Option of just talk the Pain away was shown
in the Second Age. (Where ist Numénor again?)

Never forget: There is always one more Question. It will appear later.

Greetings
- daemon / jens


--
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
http://www.runes-haven.de
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
And when the Moon
is burning down
in the Fire of Fear
our lost Souls will meet
at the Estuaries of Sunrise
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*


Konrad Gaertner

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Jul 16, 2002, 5:14:30 PM7/16/02
to
Richard Barrett wrote:
>
> Terry Pratchett was recently quoted as saying, clearly in reference to
> Lord of the Rings and comparing it to his own work:
>
> "Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
> throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
> possibility that evil can be defused by talking."
>
> Seems to me Pratchett misses the point, perhaps willfully so.

Of course its willfully. Pratchett is *trying* to trivialise it so
he can make witty comments. That's his *job*.

Saying he misses the point is like saying Monty Python missed the
point of the Arthurian legends.


--KG

Jens Murer

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Jul 16, 2002, 5:21:30 PM7/16/02
to

"David Salo" <ds...@usa.net> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
news:160720021610183163%ds...@usa.net...

> Writers much better than Pratchett have made statements like this.
> There are several problems with this kind of statement, however. The
> most obvious one is that Frodo does *not* throw the Ring into the
> Cracks of Doom; nobody does. A great deal of the story hinges on that
> fact; not only does Frodo fail to "just toss the ring in", within the
> context of the story nobody could have done so. Frodo had been sent on
> the ultimate fool's errand, wild-goose-chase, mission impossible: he
> was destined to fail. What's more, his failure is adumbrated from the
> beginning, when he is unable to throw the Ring into his own fire. If
> he could not do that, how could he destroy the Ring?
> Why, then, did the Wise send Frodo to Mordor? It looks, in
> retrospect, like the ultimate gamble; they knew perfectly well that, of
> his own will, Frodo was unable to destroy the Ring. They were counting
> on a miracle; hoping that, if the situation were of such a sort that
> the Ring could be physically destroyed, Fate or God would handle the
> rest. And so it happens that Gollum ends up in just the right place at
> the right time. If there is a lesson here, it is not that you can
> destroy evil be chucking a ring into a fiery pit, but that the most
> impossible of obstacles can be overcome with a foundation of
> perseverance and a pinnacle of faith.
>
> David Salo

That's quite interessting. Do you think, the Council perharps thought, that
Sam's Loyality to Frodo - One of the Main Parts of the Story - could turn
the Things into the right Direction? I cannot believe they do the gamble
with a Chance at 1:1M.

- dae / jens


Jens Murer

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Jul 16, 2002, 5:31:54 PM7/16/02
to

"Heather Garvey" <ra...@typhoon.xnet.com> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
news:ah2241$ql$1...@flood.xnet.com...

> I read his quote more like "Bugger these quests where
> the Big Bad is defeated by transporting the Magic Whatsit and
> hurling it through the Mystical Portal and WHAMMO! the world is
> magically a better place! You don't effect real change in hearts
> and minds by ticking items off a list - you do it by changing
> people, by showing them things in a new light, by your example."

Silence conquered the Room after it defeated these Words and only the Sound
of the Rain from outside tried to resist. For wise were the Words that were
spoken and Wisdom was in them.

- dae / jens

David Johnston

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Jul 16, 2002, 5:35:58 PM7/16/02
to
Richard Barrett wrote:
>
> Terry Pratchett was recently quoted as saying, clearly in reference to
> Lord of the Rings and comparing it to his own work:
>
> "Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
> throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
> possibility that evil can be defused by talking."
>
> Seems to me Pratchett misses the point, perhaps willfully so. First of
> all, I think Tolkien makes it clear that evil is *not* destroyed with
> the Ring's meltdown;

It seems to me that you are misinterpreting Pratchett's statement, perhaps
willfully so, by assuming that when he says evil, he means "all evil", rather
than just a given example of evil.


David Johnston

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Jul 16, 2002, 5:36:01 PM7/16/02
to
David Salo wrote:

> destroy evil be chucking a ring into a fiery pit, but that the most
> impossible of obstacles can be overcome with a foundation of
> perseverance and a pinnacle of faith.

And a great deal of dumb luck.


Terry Austin

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Jul 16, 2002, 5:24:06 PM7/16/02
to
Maybe he's just jealous cuz he knows nothing he'll ever write
will be taught in literature classes 50 years from now.

Terry Austin


Eric Jarvis

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Jul 16, 2002, 5:56:50 PM7/16/02
to
Richard Barrett wrote:
> Terry Pratchett was recently quoted as saying, clearly in reference to
> Lord of the Rings and comparing it to his own work:
>
> "Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
> throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
> possibility that evil can be defused by talking."
>
> Seems to me Pratchett misses the point, perhaps willfully so.
>

nope...and if you had read and understood any of his later books it would
be immediately obvious what he's talking about and why his attitude is
different to Tolkein's (and IMO much more relevant to real situations)

in Tolkein there is a struggle between good and evil...in Pratchett there
are struggles between people...I would contend that the latter is a closer
reflection of reality

in Tolkein each individual has a choice between evil actions and good
ones...in so far as there are any gray areas it is because some characters
don't choose one or the other consistently...in Pratchett characters are
usually presented with a wide range of choices and tend to choose one for
either selfish or (more rarely) altruistic reasons...doing what seems good
in the short term can have evil consequences in the long term and vice
versa

Tolkein was writing myth...it should be taken as such and no more...it's
quite good myth at times...but it isn't a political treatise in the way
that books like 1984 or Brave New World are...so making direct comparisons
with real situations is not what the author intended of the
work...everything in Tolein is deliberately two dimensional...myth is
meant to work that way...trying to impose a three dimensional
interpretation on it is not likely to lead to many sensible conclusions

Pratchett is writing parody...it refers constantly to reality...it is an
entirely different type of writing that involves a two dimensional
representation of a three dimensional situation...the subtleties are
always there...they have to be because most of the humour depends on them
being there...however, trying to correlate it to reality is liable to lead
to psychotic episodes, a desperate craving for beer and chocolate, and
Usenet addiction...or uncontrollable laughter

Pratchett's statement is fair comment...myth has its place in fantasy and
sf...but it isn't the only possibility for the genre...just as it isn't
the only literary device by which one can interpret reality...the dangers
of interpreting reality only through myth are seen almost every time
extremists mange to create a situation where people start to see other
people with the emphasis on "other" and not on "people"...that is when the
idea of a simple struggle between good and evil must be fought tooth and
nail if good is to prevail

good troll btw

--
eric
"I am a man of many parts, unfortunately most of
them are no longer in stock"

Chris Share

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Jul 16, 2002, 6:17:55 PM7/16/02
to
On Tue, 16 Jul 2002 14:24:06 -0700s, Terry Austin
(tau...@hyperbooks.com) said...

>Maybe he's just jealous cuz he knows nothing he'll ever write
>will be taught in literature classes 50 years from now.
>
>Terry Austin

Who'd be jealous of that? IME teaching a book in epth just takes all
the enjoyment out of it...

chris

Kevin Hackett

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Jul 16, 2002, 6:30:53 PM7/16/02
to

"Chakaal The Indifferent" <cha...@panix.com> wrote in message
news:ah210g$du9$1...@panix2.panix.com...

>In article <bee09f80.02071...@posting.google.com>,
>Richard Barrett <richar...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>>Terry Pratchett was recently quoted as saying, clearly in reference
>>to Lord of the Rings and comparing it to his own work:
>>
>>"Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
>>throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
>>possibility that evil can be defused by talking."
>>
>>Seems to me Pratchett misses the point, perhaps willfully so.
>>First of
>
>Remember, if you will, that Pratchett is a humor writer. He is
>*going* to wisecrack. Also remember that in Pratchett's books
>people are talked out of things not by appeasement but by
>misdirection, hi-jinks, obfuscation and generally having them
>become confused about what it was they were going to do in
>the first place.

I think you've got the point there. Three thing to remember:

1) Terry Pratchett has been quoted several times as being a Tolkien fan.
One quote I saw recently says, 'It was also my tribute to twenty-five years
of fantasy reading, which started when I was thirteen and read Lord of the
Rings in 25 hours. That damn book was a halfbrick in the path of the bicycle
of my life. I started reading fantasy books at the kind of speed you can
only manage in your early teens'

2) Just because he likes you, doesn't mean you're not fair game.

3) In several books, there has been the theme that the Heroic Gesture may
well get you in the sagas, but the Intelligent Maneuvre means everyone gets
home with minimal loss of appendages. Also, defeating evil is all well and
good, but you have to think what you put in it's place. You can have as
many victories as you want, but there is only peace when good can find a way
to stop evil wanting more. This does not necessarily require a lot of
deaths

As well as the humour (and to be fair it's more wit than slapstick), the
thing about the discworld books is that it's a fantasy world with real
people. And real people are generally not all that nice when viewed as a
population. Take Ankh-Morpork, the most often used city. It is run by the
Patrician, who is... well, not technically evil. But efficient, ruthless,
astoundingly manipulative and prone to the sort of actions (Thieves' Guild
crime quotas, the occasional necessary death) that the people really wish
didn't work so well. In High Fantasy, he'd be the one who gets a hole in
him near the end of the book. But soon there'd be uproar because crime
would increase, power struggles would ensue, and all the little systems,
vested interests and in-fighting that kept the city running like a sharpened
gyroscope would fall apart. He's not liked, but he's appreciated for
keeping life running pretty much how it was the day before. At least,
appreciated by enough people that attempts to remove him will be stomped on
even by the good guys, who are heroes but also realists

As Garfield once said, 'People don't want nice. They want consistent'

Cheers,
Kevin
You can't destroy evil, but you can give it an admin job


Terry Austin

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Jul 16, 2002, 6:38:26 PM7/16/02
to
Darin Johnson wrote:

> Konrad Gaertner <kgae...@worldnet.att.net> writes:
>
>> Of course its willfully. Pratchett is *trying* to trivialise it so
>> he can make witty comments. That's his *job*.
>>
>> Saying he misses the point is like saying Monty Python missed the
>> point of the Arthurian legends.
>
> Agreed. The original question and commentary sounded like it came
> from someone who'd read most of the Pratchett books without realizing
> they were supposed to be funny.

They're supposed to be funny?
>
Terry Austin


Terry Austin

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Jul 16, 2002, 6:40:06 PM7/16/02
to
Chris Share wrote:
> On Tue, 16 Jul 2002 14:24:06 -0700s, Terry Austin
> (tau...@hyperbooks.com) said...
>> Maybe he's just jealous cuz he knows nothing he'll ever write
>> will be taught in literature classes 50 years from now.
>>
>> Terry Austin
>
> Who'd be jealous of that?

Well, the theory would be, Pratchett. However, subsequent
comments by people who have actually read his books
suggest to me that perhaps the original quote was somewhat
less than serious, or perhaps not entirely in context.

Makes little difference to me; I could never make it through
more than about six pages of Pratchett.

Terry Austin


Mary Messall

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Jul 16, 2002, 7:25:09 PM7/16/02
to
Hope you don't mind the extra letter in the title--we at
alt.fan.pratchett so rarely discuss anything related to Pratchett that
we like to mark [R]elevant things specially, just to prove we do it
sometimes.

Richard Barrett wrote:
> Terry Pratchett was recently quoted as saying, clearly in reference to
> Lord of the Rings and comparing it to his own work:

Which, to be fair, isn't really meant to compete with LotR. They're
stories about stories, basically in answer to the question "Why *can't*
real life be more like high fantasy?"

> "Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
> throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
> possibility that evil can be defused by talking."
> Seems to me Pratchett misses the point, perhaps willfully so. First of

Yeah, willfully so. It's humor, sort of. (Actually, "humor, sort of" is
my favorite kind of funny. The ridiculous is so much more amusing if
it's true.)

That line is a reductio ad absurdem on Noble Quests. Yeah, we all know,
Terry Pratchett especially, that there's more to it than that. It's
about the corrupting force of power even on innocence, and the
relationship between weakness and courage, and yadda yadda yadda.

But when you come right down to it, they *do* destroy the evil forces
by throwing a piece of jewelry into a volcano. And in our world,
unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. (In our world, it's much
harder to recognize evil, for starters. The names of the villains don't
all start with M or S, and they don't always appear in black cloaks or
surrounded by flame.)

But I wouldn't say that in our world, "it's not that easy," because
actually, it can be even easier. You often don't have to go on a
dangerous and exhausting quest through gorgeous scenery and impossible
odds at all. A lot of the time, talking will do it. You start talking
to someone, suddenly you don't see the evil any more. Just, y'know,
hurt, and fear, and wounded pride, and misplaced loyalty. It's amazing.
It's "beguiling," just like he said, that such a simple thing can work
like that...

<snip Sauron is evil but not Evil, which I don't think is in dispute>


> As far as evil being "defused by talking" goes - I think Tolkien
> presents a point of view that says to negotiate with evil is to allow
> it to perpetuate itself. Appeasement can only be interpreted as
> approval.

If I thought Tolkein believed this, I'd have to retire from fandom. It
strikes me as such a dangerous attitude. I have a tendency to ascribe
to Tolkein all of C.S. Lewis's views, though, because Lewis said
Tolkein converted him in the first place. Now C.S. Lewis is a person
whom I admire so much it hurts.

I highly recommend anyone who's only ever read the Narnia books to
investigate The Screwtape Letters (wonderfully Pratchettesque) and The
Great Divorce and Mere Christianity. These are explicitly Christian
books, and every time I read them, he *almost* converts me again.
Certainly he makes me want to agree... Anyway, he strikes me as one of
the most reasonable men that ever was, and I can tell you there's no
way in hell (sorry, C.S.) that he would ever agree with the idea that
talking to "evil" is the same as surrendering to it. His version of
hell was a continuously expanding suburb where no one talked at all.
Hitler and Napoleon as petty neighbors. I think he'd say the evil
starts when the talking stops.

If you couldn't ever negotiate with the bad guys, no war would ever end
except with genocide.

> Tolkien seems to say that evil must be dealt with at its
> source; it can't be hidden, it can't be harnessed for good; it can
> only be resisted and ultimately destroyed.

I don't think Tolkein does say that. The way I understood it, Sauron is
a metaphor for forces inside ourselves. We all have the capacity to be
that. The whole point of the book, as far as I'm concerned, is the
effect of the ring upon the bearer. Frodo is a hero because he resists
temptation, not because he walks all the way to Mordor on his little
hobbit legs. The most important scenes in the book are those where
Gandalf and Galadriel refuse the ring, where Bilbo clings to it... The
most tragic is when Boromir succumbs. That's the real danger. Not that
Sauron will kill them, but that he will win them to his side as he did
Saruman. The scenes with Grima wormtongue say the same.

The point is not evil enemies, it's evil impulses...

> Those who are evil can be
> redeemed, but only if they so choose. Pratchett's whittling of the the
> ring down to a "piece of expensive jewelry" appears to deliberately
> trivialize its real significance.
> Anybody have any thoughts on this?

I think you've trivialized his trivialization, basically. The joke has
a point. What's more, I think Tolkein would agree. He hated being taken
literally. He denied to his death that Sauron was Hitler, and if if he
wasn't Hitler, then he sure isn't Bin Laden.

-Mary

--
{I drank at every vine. / The last was like the first. / I came upon
no wine / So wonderful as thirst.} {"Heaven bless the babe!" they said
"What queer books she must have read!"} -two by Edna St Vincent Millay
http://indagabo.orcon.net.nz/ -> my soapbox and grandstand and gallery

Ross TenEyck

unread,
Jul 16, 2002, 7:42:59 PM7/16/02
to
David Salo <ds...@usa.net> writes:
>In article <bee09f80.02071...@posting.google.com>,
>richar...@hotmail.com (Richard Barrett) wrote:

>> Terry Pratchett was recently quoted as saying, clearly in reference to
>> Lord of the Rings and comparing it to his own work:
>>
>> "Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
>> throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
>> possibility that evil can be defused by talking."

> Writers much better than Pratchett have made statements like this.
>There are several problems with this kind of statement, however. The
>most obvious one is that Frodo does *not* throw the Ring into the
>Cracks of Doom; nobody does. A great deal of the story hinges on that
>fact; not only does Frodo fail to "just toss the ring in", within the
>context of the story nobody could have done so. Frodo had been sent on
>the ultimate fool's errand, wild-goose-chase, mission impossible: he
>was destined to fail. What's more, his failure is adumbrated from the
>beginning, when he is unable to throw the Ring into his own fire. If
>he could not do that, how could he destroy the Ring?

It's not entirely analagous; at that time, Frodo has no idea what
the Ring was, nor any compelling reason why he would *want* to
toss it in the fire (other than Gandalf demanding rather abruptly
that he do so.)

In taking the Ring to Orodruin, he knew perfectly well that it was
a matter of desperate importance; that the fate of everyone he knew
and everything he held dear depended on the Ring being destroyed.
That's a little more motivation.

Plus, of course, the Council never intended that Frodo end up there
alone. They expected at least Gandalf and Aragorn there with him,
either of whom -- not having actually carried the thing and let it
sink its hooks into them -- could probably muster the will to do
the deed.

Or perhaps not, of course. It was a horrible gamble from the get-go,
and everyone knew that; there was every likelihood that they were
accomplishing nothing more than sending the Ring to Sauron wrapped
in a pretty red bow. But they really had no other choice: if they
didn't try to destroy the Ring, then Sauron would conquer them sooner
or later, and would get the Ring, sooner or later. If they did try
to destroy it and Sauron caught them on the way... well, that just
brings about the end sooner, rather than later.

--
================== http://www.alumni.caltech.edu/~teneyck ==================
Ross TenEyck Seattle, WA \ Light, kindled in the furnace of hydrogen;
ten...@alumni.caltech.edu \ like smoke, sunlight carries the hot-metal
Are wa yume? Soretomo maboroshi? \ tang of Creation's forge.

Rocky Frisco

unread,
Jul 16, 2002, 8:02:27 PM7/16/02
to
Richard Barrett wrote:
>
> Terry Pratchett was recently quoted as saying, clearly in reference to
> Lord of the Rings and comparing it to his own work:

Quoted where and when? Doesn't sound like TP to me.

> "Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
> throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
> possibility that evil can be defused by talking."

Sounds like a paraphrase at best.

> Seems to me Pratchett misses the point, perhaps willfully so. First of
> all, I think Tolkien makes it clear that evil is *not* destroyed with
> the Ring's meltdown; Sauron is not the Personification of Evil without
> whom evil cannot continue to exist, he's just currently the one who
> has managed to become the most powerful (and he himself was originally
> just Morgoth's flunky). The Ring's destruction allows evil to wane for
> awhile, but Gandalf makes it clear that there will always be work to
> do. Presumably, only Iluvatar can ever totally destroy evil, and He
> will do so at a time of His own choosing. Until then, the fight must
> go on, and there will be victories and losses. The Lord of the Rings
> simply chronicles *a* victory, not THE victory.

You are hoisting up false targets to shoot at; what is your
motivation here?

> As far as evil being "defused by talking" goes - I think Tolkien
> presents a point of view that says to negotiate with evil is to allow
> it to perpetuate itself. Appeasement can only be interpreted as
> approval. Tolkien seems to say that evil must be dealt with at its
> source; it can't be hidden, it can't be harnessed for good; it can
> only be resisted and ultimately destroyed. Those who are evil can be
> redeemed, but only if they so choose. Pratchett's whittling of the the
> ring down to a "piece of expensive jewelry" appears to deliberately
> trivialize its real significance.

Now, how the hell can a "ring" have any "significance" to be
possibly trivialized, when it exists only as an idea in some human
minds due to the influence on them of little scratchy marks on
paper.

> Anybody have any thoughts on this?

Yes.

1) Evil is only something out of place or being used incorrectly.

2) I would bet the motivation for your message was to get the shot
of endorphins/hormones you allow yourself when you fantasize that
you have shown yourself superior in some way to a famous author.

3) You will regret this habit when you die and know all things, too
late, as usual.

-Rock http://www.rocky-frisco.com
--
Red Dirt Rangers (Rocky on piano): http://www.reddirtrangers.com
JJ Cale Live (w/Rocky): http://www.rocky-frisco.com/calelive.htm
The Luggage Fan Club: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/luggage-fans

Michael S. Schiffer

unread,
Jul 16, 2002, 8:07:32 PM7/16/02
to
"Jens Murer" <dae...@stadtwache.net> wrote in
news:ah22o7$qu3$06$1...@news.t-online.com:
>...

> That's quite interessting. Do you think, the Council perharps
> thought, that Sam's Loyality to Frodo - One of the Main Parts of
> the Story - could turn the Things into the right Direction?

I'm not sure anyone except maybe Gandalf, or maybe Aragorn, had much
of a sense of that. Sending Sam was an afterthought to Elrond,
determined after Frodo had volunteered for the quest.

>I cannot believe they do the gamble with a Chance at 1:1M.

They appeared to think that no other course gave them even that much
of a chance. But no one really thought that Frodo had a great
likelihood of succeeding-- just that he had the best odds of anyone
available. (And he was, after all, the *only* volunteer, though we
may guess that if he hadn't spoken then someone would have come
forward.)

Mike
--
Michael S. Schiffer, LHN, FCS
msch...@condor.depaul.edu

Michael S. Schiffer

unread,
Jul 16, 2002, 8:09:34 PM7/16/02
to
David Johnston <rgo...@telusplanet.net> wrote in
news:3D3483...@telusplanet.net:
> David Salo wrote:

Distinguishing luck from Providence in Tolkien's world isn't a simple
matter. (Something Gandalf as much as says in a couple of places.)

Rocky Frisco

unread,
Jul 16, 2002, 8:10:18 PM7/16/02
to
David Salo wrote:
>
> In article <bee09f80.02071...@posting.google.com>,
> richar...@hotmail.com (Richard Barrett) wrote:
>
> > Terry Pratchett was recently quoted as saying, clearly in reference to
> > Lord of the Rings and comparing it to his own work:
> >
> > "Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
> > throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
> > possibility that evil can be defused by talking."
>
> Writers much better than Pratchett have made statements like this.

Talk about your crossposting trolls!

You are a fecocerebral phallocephalic and I claim my nine pence.

> There are several problems with this kind of statement, however. The
> most obvious one is that Frodo does *not* throw the Ring into the
> Cracks of Doom; nobody does. A great deal of the story hinges on that
> fact; not only does Frodo fail to "just toss the ring in", within the
> context of the story nobody could have done so. Frodo had been sent on
> the ultimate fool's errand, wild-goose-chase, mission impossible: he
> was destined to fail. What's more, his failure is adumbrated from the
> beginning, when he is unable to throw the Ring into his own fire. If
> he could not do that, how could he destroy the Ring?
> Why, then, did the Wise send Frodo to Mordor? It looks, in
> retrospect, like the ultimate gamble; they knew perfectly well that, of
> his own will, Frodo was unable to destroy the Ring. They were counting
> on a miracle; hoping that, if the situation were of such a sort that
> the Ring could be physically destroyed, Fate or God would handle the
> rest. And so it happens that Gollum ends up in just the right place at
> the right time. If there is a lesson here, it is not that you can
> destroy evil be chucking a ring into a fiery pit, but that the most
> impossible of obstacles can be overcome with a foundation of
> perseverance and a pinnacle of faith.

No, grasshopper, it happened that way because JRRT wrote it that
way.

It's FICTION, dammit.

Talk about your sad, obsessed anoraks wanting to be the Pope of
Ringology.

Pfffooooeeeiieee! (spit)

Rocky Frisco

unread,
Jul 16, 2002, 8:21:40 PM7/16/02
to

Here it is!

QUESTION:

Why are you pissing about, philosophizing, trying to come to
conclusions about a story in a book that was written and sold as
fiction, when there are books that claim to be and are sold as
non-fiction?

The words in the Tolkien trilogy are there because and only because
he wrote the stories that way, out of his own mind. This is the
final answer. Not because Frodo did something or Bilbo knew
something or Galadriel smelled something, but because JRRT wrote it
that way.

Why not philosophically piss about with something that at least
claims to be significant, like Darwin or The Bible or the telephone
directory?

Sherilyn

unread,
Jul 16, 2002, 8:23:24 PM7/16/02
to
[followups to afp]
Rocky Frisco <ro...@rocky-frisco.com> writes:

> Richard Barrett wrote:
> >
> > Terry Pratchett was recently quoted as saying, clearly in reference to
> > Lord of the Rings and comparing it to his own work:
>
> Quoted where and when? Doesn't sound like TP to me.
>
> > "Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
> > throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
> > possibility that evil can be defused by talking."
>
> Sounds like a paraphrase at best.

Apparently he said this in his Carnegie Medal acceptance speech at the
British Library. The Scotsman also quoted him as saying:

"The fantasy of justice is more interesting than the fantasy of
fairies, and more truly fantastic."

[...]


--
Sherilyn http://www.greedycorporate.com/minority-report/
Free reliable text-only posting news accounts: http://news.cis.dfn.de/

Rocky Frisco

unread,
Jul 16, 2002, 8:24:54 PM7/16/02
to

I was right; it's just a crossposting troll invasion from
rec.arts.sf.written and alt.fan.tolkien.

Sherilyn

unread,
Jul 16, 2002, 8:28:16 PM7/16/02
to
[followups to afp]
Rocky Frisco <ro...@rocky-frisco.com> writes:

> Jens Murer wrote:

[...]

> > I guess, when talking of Sauron as the major Evil it can be destroyed by the
> > Destruction of the Ring and the Option of just talk the Pain away was shown
> > in the Second Age. (Where ist Numénor again?)
> >
> > Never forget: There is always one more Question. It will appear later.
>
> Here it is!
>
> QUESTION:
>
> Why are you pissing about, philosophizing, trying to come to
> conclusions about a story in a book that was written and sold as
> fiction, when there are books that claim to be and are sold as
> non-fiction?
>
> The words in the Tolkien trilogy are there because and only because
> he wrote the stories that way, out of his own mind. This is the
> final answer. Not because Frodo did something or Bilbo knew
> something or Galadriel smelled something, but because JRRT wrote it
> that way.

You are me & ICMFP.

Rocky Frisco

unread,
Jul 16, 2002, 8:36:26 PM7/16/02
to
Terry Austin wrote:

> Maybe he's just jealous cuz he knows nothing he'll ever write
> will be taught in literature classes 50 years from now.

> Terry Austin

First of all, porridge for brains, the word you want is not jealous;
it's "envious." Second, what have you ever done that will last, or
that is loved and enjoyed and respected now? Your accomplishments
would have to go to University for eight years and spend another
six in psychoanalysis and Tai Chi class before they would be
qualified to lick Terry Pratchett's month-old footprints. So there.

> > Who'd be jealous of that?
>
> Well, the theory would be, Pratchett. However, subsequent
> comments by people who have actually read his books
> suggest to me that perhaps the original quote was somewhat
> less than serious, or perhaps not entirely in context.

Wow. Do you suppose?

> Makes little difference to me; I could never make it through
> more than about six pages of Pratchett.

Too bad! Back to Pooh and Piglet, eh?

Speaker-to-Customers

unread,
Jul 16, 2002, 9:22:07 PM7/16/02
to
Rocky Frisco wrote:
> Terry Austin wrote:

(Snip all)

Rocky, please stop responding to this. Terry Austin is perhaps the most
notorious troll on Usenet; the only way to deal with him is to ignore him,
which is why I am only posting this to afp as I doubt if he reads this
group.

Paul Speaker-to-Customers


Jeff Scarbrough

unread,
Jul 17, 2002, 12:41:44 AM7/17/02
to
On 16 Jul 2002 23:42:59 GMT, ten...@alumnae.caltech.edu (Ross
TenEyck) wrote:

>Plus, of course, the Council never intended that Frodo end up there
>alone. They expected at least Gandalf and Aragorn there with him,
>either of whom -- not having actually carried the thing and let it
>sink its hooks into them -- could probably muster the will to do
>the deed.

Thus the reason for choosing someone of a "simpler" mind...Frodo was
expendable as a Host for the Ring, while his companions would do the
dirty work when the time came, without the direct influence
/experience of wearing the Ring... just a quick shove when the time
was right.

Though, as with most Quests, it didn't work out that way....

Jeff Sc.
Athens Ga.

how...@brazee.net

unread,
Jul 16, 2002, 9:41:07 PM7/16/02
to

On 16-Jul-2002, David Salo <ds...@usa.net> wrote:

> > "Far more beguiling than the idea that evil can be destroyed by
> > throwing a piece of expensive jewelry into a volcano is the
> > possibility that evil can be defused by talking."
>

> Writers much better than Pratchett have made statements like this.

> There are several problems with this kind of statement, however. The
> most obvious one is that Frodo does *not* throw the Ring into the
> Cracks of Doom; nobody does.

So? How does what actually happened change the validity of this humorous
statement? That idea is just as valid (or invalid) with what happened.
Sure your point that a miracle was needed for this to happen - but it
happened anyway, and evil was destroyed (in the context of the novel).

Robert Penner

unread,
Jul 16, 2002, 9:41:06 PM7/16/02
to
"David Salo" <ds...@usa.net> wrote in message
news:160720021610183163%ds...@usa.net...

> Why, then, did the Wise send Frodo to Mordor? It looks, in
> retrospect, like the ultimate gamble; they knew perfectly well that, of
> his own will, Frodo was unable to destroy the Ring. They were counting
> on a miracle; hoping that, if the situation were of such a sort that
> the Ring could be physically destroyed, Fate or God would handle the
> rest. And so it happens that Gollum ends up in just the right place at
> the right time. If there is a lesson here, it is not that you can
> destroy evil be chucking a ring into a fiery pit, but that the most
> impossible of obstacles can be overcome with a foundation of
> perseverance and a pinnacle of faith.

Excellent point. It reminds me of Kierkegaard and his take on Abraham
sacrificing Isaac. Abraham believed both that God had promised to make him
(Abraham) a great nation through his offspring, AND that God had told him to
kill his son. Abraham went to his own "Mount Doom," believing that God would
resolve the situation somehow, by raising Isaac from the dead if necessary.
Kierkegaard (and various New Testament authors) held up Abraham as an
example of ultimate faith.

Robert Penner


how...@brazee.net

unread,
Jul 16, 2002, 9:42:28 PM7/16/02
to

On 16-Jul-2002, "Jens Murer" <dae...@stadtwache.net> wrote:

> That's quite interessting. Do you think, the Council perharps thought,
> that
> Sam's Loyality to Frodo - One of the Main Parts of the Story - could turn
> the Things into the right Direction? I cannot believe they do the gamble
> with a Chance at 1:1M.

Most myths of this level have oracle type prescience. We miss a lot of
what Gandalf does & learns in the background.

Donald Shepherd

unread,
Jul 16, 2002, 9:46:46 PM7/16/02