Tragic figures

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eruvatar

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Jun 4, 2012, 11:49:03 PM6/4/12
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Just wondering if anyone had a thought on who was the more tragic
figure in Professor Tolkiens tales,Feanor, Boromir or Thorin
Oakenshield? Personally I would lean more towards Boromir. Dutiful Son
who really wasn't thinking of himself when he tried to take the ring
from Frodo but of Gondor and his father. In the end he acquitted
himself by saving Merry and Pippin, but these are just my thoughts.
Yours?

Eruvatar @middleearthblog.blogspot.com
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Stan Brown

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Jun 5, 2012, 6:41:13 AM6/5/12
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I would put Fëanor very high on the list, but Túrin at the top. Both
were figures of greatness, with many gifts; both were undone by their
pride. Fëanor did more damage to others, and was responsible for a
lot more deaths than Túrin. Túrin's cries on a personal level were
graver, until finally he ended in suicide.


--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Tompkins County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com
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John W Kennedy

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Jun 5, 2012, 10:27:01 PM6/5/12
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Only "The Lord of the Rings" of all the Matière du Terre du Milieu is
written in a sufficiently adult and character-driven way to qualify as
a tragedy, with the possible exception of "The Children of Húrin" (and
Túrin really does belong on your list). One could make a tragedy of
Fëanor, but Tolkien has not done it.

--
John W Kennedy
"Though a Rothschild you may be
In your own capacity,
As a Company you've come to utter sorrow--
But the Liquidators say,
'Never mind--you needn't pay,'
So you start another company to-morrow!"
-- Sir William S. Gilbert. "Utopia Limited"

Bill O'Meally

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Jun 6, 2012, 12:53:52 AM6/6/12
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You really think Boromir selflessly only had Gondor on his mind and not
his own self aggrandizement?
--
Bill
"Wise Fool" -- Gandalf, _The Two Towers_
(The Wise will remove 'se' to reach me. The Foolish will not)

derek

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Jun 6, 2012, 12:22:04 PM6/6/12
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On Jun 6, 1:53 am, Bill O'Meally <omeall...@wise.rr.com> wrote:
> On 2012-06-04 22:49:03 -0500, eruvatar said:
>
> >  Just wondering if anyone had a thought on who was the more tragic
> > figure in Professor Tolkiens tales,Feanor, Boromir or Thorin
> > Oakenshield? Personally I would lean more towards Boromir. Dutiful Son
> > who really wasn't thinking of himself when he tried to take the ring
> > from Frodo but of Gondor and his father. In the end he acquitted
> > himself by saving Merry and Pippin, but these are just my thoughts.
> > Yours?
>
> You really think Boromir selflessly only had Gondor on his mind and not
> his own self aggrandizement?

That's a trick question, right? I don't think Boromir really
distinguishes between Gondor and the Stewards thereof. I'm sure he
completely believes that what's good for Boromir is good for Gondor.

Bill O'Meally

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Jun 6, 2012, 2:52:45 PM6/6/12
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No one can doubt Boromir's love of Gondor. But the only thing Boromir
would rather have seen than a Gondor victorious would have been a
Gondor victorious with Boromir as its captain.

Taemon

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Jun 6, 2012, 3:02:18 PM6/6/12
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Bill O'Meally wrote:

> No one can doubt Boromir's love of Gondor. But the only thing Boromir
> would rather have seen than a Gondor victorious would have been a
> Gondor victorious with Boromir as its captain.

Its king.

T.


Michael Ikeda

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Jun 6, 2012, 6:08:09 PM6/6/12
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John W Kennedy <jwk...@attglobal.net> wrote in
news:4fcebff5$0$11553$607e...@cv.net:

> On 2012-06-05 03:49:03 +0000, eruvatar said:
>> Just wondering if anyone had a thought on who was the more
>> tragic
>> figure in Professor Tolkiens tales,Feanor, Boromir or Thorin
>> Oakenshield? Personally I would lean more towards Boromir.
>> Dutiful Son who really wasn't thinking of himself when he tried
>> to take the ring from Frodo but of Gondor and his father. In
>> the end he acquitted himself by saving Merry and Pippin, but
>> these are just my thoughts. Yours?
>
> Only "The Lord of the Rings" of all the Matière du Terre du
> Milieu is written in a sufficiently adult and character-driven
> way to qualify as a tragedy, with the possible exception of "The
> Children of Húrin" (and Túrin really does belong on your
> list). One could make a tragedy of Fëanor, but Tolkien has not
> done it.
>

And I wouldn't consider Thorin Oakenshield a tragic figure in any
case. Granted, he does die within the story, but he dies knowing
that the dragon is dead and his kin can resettle the Lonely
Mountain.

(It is somewhat interesting that the two responses I've seen that
have provided a specific name both provided a name that wasn't one
of the alternatives given in the original question.)

Troels Forchhammer

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Jun 6, 2012, 7:52:06 PM6/6/12
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In message <news:4fcebff5$0$11553$607e...@cv.net>
John W Kennedy <jwk...@attglobal.net> spoke these staves:
>
> On 2012-06-05 03:49:03 +0000, eruvatar said:
>>
>> Just wondering if anyone had a thought on who was the more
>> tragic figure in Professor Tolkiens tales,Feanor, Boromir or
>> Thorin Oakenshield?
>
> Only "The Lord of the Rings" of all the Matière du Terre du
> Milieu is written in a sufficiently adult and character-driven way
> to qualify as a tragedy, with the possible exception of "The
> Children of Húrin" (and Túrin really does belong on your list).
> One could make a tragedy of Fëanor, but Tolkien has not done it.

I'd say that there are definite tragical elements in several of the
other Silmarillion tales -- Eöl and Aredhel (and their son, Maeglin)
has some of this, and the story of the Doom of the Noldor is also
tragic (with, I think, Maglor as the wandering Elf minstrel as the
more tragic figure of Fëanor's sons). Possibly this doesn't make them
tragedies (I'll admit that I don't know the 'rules' of neither
classical nor modern tragedy), but I'd add Maeglin as a 'tragic
figure' anyway.

Galadriel points out that she and Celeborn have been 'fighting the
long defeat' together through ages of the world, and this overall arc
of loss of beauty, of power, of knowledge and of much else is
inherent in all of Tolkien's legendarium, and so there is everywhere,
from the _Ainulindalë_ to the scribe Findegil in the Fourth Age, a
sense of _loss_ that is permeating through all the history of Arda.
This sense of loss is, I would say, in part created by having
multiple instances of loss and tragedy on the individual level --
Finrod Felagund giving his life in Sauron's dungeons to save Beren,
Lúthien becoming mortal and burning too brightly (presumably an
euphemism for aging quickly), but also of loss on a grander scale:
the fall of Hithlum, of Nargothrond, of Gondolin, of Doriath, of
Númenor, of Arnor, of Moria etc. etc.

Without necessarily making tragedies of their tales, all of this
creates a wealth of tragic moments from which to extract tragic
figures, but overall I don't think there is much question of which is
the single most tragic figure in all of Tolkien's tales: Túrin
Turambar - turun ambartanen!

>> Personally I would lean more towards Boromir. Dutiful Son who
>> really wasn't thinking of himself when he tried to take the ring
>> from Frodo but of Gondor and his father. In the end he acquitted
>> himself by saving Merry and Pippin, but these are just my
>> thoughts. Yours?

My thoughts on this is that you seem to be confusing two characters
called Boromir -- one created by the English author, J.R.R. Tolkien
and and the other by a team of script-writers headed by the New
Zealand film director, Peter Jackson (as with e.g. Aragorn the
differences between Tolkien's Boromir and Jackson's are both great
and fundamental: essentially they are two completely different
characters).

Boromir (i.e. Tolkien's Boromir) was _certainly_ driven by self-
interest when he tried to rob Frodo of the Master Ring -- not just in
a small part, but mainly .
'Comfort yourself!' said Gandalf. 'In no case would
Boromir have brought it to you. He is dead, and died well;
may he sleep in peace! Yet you deceive yourself. He would
have stretched out his hand to this thing, and taking it he
would have fallen. He would have kept it for his own, and
when he returned you would not have known your son.'
_LotR_ book 5 ch. 4 'The Siege of Gondor'
It is a part of the way that the Ring works that it preys on your
desire for power, and we know from the person who loved and knew
Boromir, his brother Faramir, that his own glory was a major
contributor to his desire for Gondor's victory. Boromir's desire for
the Ring was primarily based on his lust for self-aggrandizement, and
to a lesser degree by his desparation for Gondor's situation (after
all, the Sword that was Broken was coming to Minas Tirith, and
Boromir had had rich occasion to see whether 'the hand that [wielded]
it [had] inherited not an heirloom only, but the sinews of the Kings
of Men.'

In the end Boromir was a prideful man (not a bad man or an evil man
as such) who was only able to redeem himself through the ultimate
sacrifice: only by giving his own life in defence of those who were
weaker and, as it were, unworthy of his protection did he manage
redeem himself and die well, as Gandalf puts it.

But Boromir was never a tragic figure -- quite the opposite, I think,
because he _does_ manage to find redemption.

--
Troels Forchhammer
Valid e-mail is <troelsfo(a)gmail.com>
Please put [AFT], [RABT] or 'Tolkien' in subject.

Science without religion is lame. Religion without science
is blind.
- Albert Einstein

John W Kennedy

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Jun 6, 2012, 8:22:16 PM6/6/12
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On 2012-06-06 23:52:06 +0000, Troels Forchhammer said:

> In message <news:4fcebff5$0$11553$607e...@cv.net>
> John W Kennedy <jwk...@attglobal.net> spoke these staves:
>>
>> On 2012-06-05 03:49:03 +0000, eruvatar said:
>>>
>>> Just wondering if anyone had a thought on who was the more
>>> tragic figure in Professor Tolkiens tales,Feanor, Boromir or
>>> Thorin Oakenshield?
>>
>> Only "The Lord of the Rings" of all the Matière du Terre du
>> Milieu is written in a sufficiently adult and character-driven way
>> to qualify as a tragedy, with the possible exception of "The
>> Children of Húrin" (and Túrin really does belong on your list).
>> One could make a tragedy of Fëanor, but Tolkien has not done it.
>
> I'd say that there are definite tragical elements in several of the
> other Silmarillion tales -- Eöl and Aredhel (and their son, Maeglin)
> has some of this, and the story of the Doom of the Noldor is also
> tragic (with, I think, Maglor as the wandering Elf minstrel as the
> more tragic figure of Fëanor's sons). Possibly this doesn't make them
> tragedies (I'll admit that I don't know the 'rules' of neither
> classical nor modern tragedy), but I'd add Maeglin as a 'tragic
> figure' anyway.

The problem with all of these is that a tragedy has to get under the
characters' skins in the way that a play does, or that a modern novel
does. But most of the "Silmarillion" isn't like that. It's a legend, a
list of things that people did. There's nothing wrong with that, but
it's fundamentally different from what a tragedy does.

C. S. Lewis once remarked, "I would go a long way to meet Beatrice or
Falstaff or Mr. Jonathon Oldbuck or Disraeli's Lord Monmouth. I would
not cross the room to meet Hamlet. It would never be necessary. He is
always where I am." For the most part, the characters in the
"Silmarillion" are not like Hamlet, not in that way. Tolkien wasn't
writing that kind of book.

> But Boromir was never a tragic figure -- quite the opposite, I think,
> because he _does_ manage to find redemption.

So do many. That does not preclude tragedy at all.

--
John W Kennedy
"When a man contemplates forcing his own convictions down another man's
throat, he is contemplating both an unchristian act and an act of
treason to the United States."
-- Joy Davidman, "Smoke on the Mountain"

No One in Particular

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Jun 6, 2012, 8:55:31 PM6/6/12
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"derek" <de...@pointerstop.ca> wrote in message
news:137e4881-e3c6-41d5...@z4g2000pbz.googlegroups.com...
Probably true, at least as far as his story went. But as I always say,
people believe what they want to believe, to allow them to continue doing
the things they want to do anyway.

Brian. People will go to amazing lengths to justify themselves.



--- Posted via news://freenews.netfront.net/ - Complaints to ne...@netfront.net ---

derek

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Jun 6, 2012, 10:18:11 PM6/6/12
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No. The one thing he never intended to be was its king.

Bill O'Meally

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Jun 6, 2012, 11:38:07 PM6/6/12
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I'm not so sure. Recall that even as a child he was bothered that
Denethor was only a steward and not a king. "Alas! poor Boromir. Does
that not tell you something of him?" (to quote Faramir).

Julian Bradfield

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Jun 7, 2012, 2:33:06 AM6/7/12
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"How many hundreds of years needs it to make a steward a king, if the
king returns not? "
Faramir said that "if [Boromir] were satisfied of Aragorn's
claim as you say, he would greatly reverence him", but there doesn't seem
to be much reverence - more a grudging acceptance that now is not the
time to argue about it, since everybody else seemed to believe in
Aragorn - or perhaps a suppression of rivalry by the better parts of
his personality.
As Faramir went on to say in the next sentence: "But the pinch has not
yet come. They had not yet reached Minas Tirith or become rivals in
her wars." And that's what his brother thinks, without taking the Ring
into account.

O. Sharp

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Jun 7, 2012, 1:48:50 PM6/7/12
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Glancing at the discussion thus far, I wonder if everybody's playing with
the same definition of "tragedy" or "tragic". (At least nobody seems to be
using Mel Brooks' definition here: "Tragedy is when I cut my finger.
Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die." <g>)

My old Greek literature teacher had an interesting definition of tragedy,
which I'll toss out there as a place to start: a tragedy, she opined, is
a story where the protagonist, despite being physically injured or
destroyed, manages nonetheless to achieve a personal, moral victory.

By that definition, anyway, Boromir's death would qualify as a tragedy:
he's about as physically defeated as one can get, but manages to gain a
victory over his own craving for the Ring. Feanor, frankly, doesn't strike
me as a tragic figure; yes, his pride got him to where the snot was beaten
out of him, but there was never any personal or moral awakening or
realization of how stupid he'd been; one gets the feeling that, if healed
of his physical wounds, he would run back out and do the same thing all
over again.

By that definition, was Turin a tragic figure? It's hard to call his death
a "moral victory", but I'd be inclined to say it could fit the definition;
he finally came to a realization, and an understanding, of all the evils
he himself had (unknowingly) contributed to, and though motivated largely
by grief and despair he certainly put an end his part in perpetuating
them. But Turin also shows that maybe this definition of "tragedy" isn't
exactly ideal for discussing Tolkien's legendarium. Can someone suggest a
better one?

...In the same vein, and to again show that this definition of "tragedy"
isn't the ideal one for Tolkien, was Frodo's story "tragic"? Again, I'm
inclined to think so, although it's implied he would find both physical
and spiritual healing in Aman; but by the definition we've offerd here,
he doesn't seem to qualify. In fact, it's almost the exact opposite:
Frodo came through the thing with (relatively) little physical trauma,
but if anything seems morally scarred by his failure, at the end, to
voluntarily give up the Ring.

Does that make Frodo a comic figure? :)

-------------------------------------------------------------------
o...@panix.com "Read _The Lord Of The Rings_: a laugh riot!"
-Kirkus Reviews

Stan Brown

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Jun 7, 2012, 7:19:31 PM6/7/12
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On Thu, 7 Jun 2012 17:48:50 +0000 (UTC), O. Sharp wrote:
> My old Greek literature teacher had an interesting definition of tragedy,
> which I'll toss out there as a place to start: a tragedy, she opined, is
> a story where the protagonist, despite being physically injured or
> destroyed, manages nonetheless to achieve a personal, moral victory.
>

My definition -- which I *think* I got from my high-school English
teacher -- is that a tragedy is a story where the central character
is destroyed by a character flaw, often but not necessarily hubris.
And my dictionary seems to agree.

OEdipus is the classic tragedy, I think you'll agree? I don't see
how he achieves any sort of personal, moral victory. T�rin is a
tragic figure (to me) because, again, he is destroyed by his hubris.
(Tragic figures often leave collateral damage, such as Jocasta and
Nienor N�niel.)

Thorin Oakenshield is not a tragic figure, because although he had
pride and greed, which fueled his anger, he did not let them run
unchecked to destroy him. If he had, he would have stayed walled up
in the Mountain when the goblins approached, and let them and the
Elves and Men fight it out. He would also not have asked Bilbo's
pardon.

F�anor *is* a tragic figure, because his pride destroyed him and
thousands of others. Like OEdipus, he received warnings from the
gods but ignored them because he thought he was greater than fate. I
don't understand the people who say F�anor could have been a tragedy
but Tolkien didn't flesh him out enough. I think we have quite a
good idea of his character, because many of his speeches are quoted
in Silm.

In a way, the Witch-king's story might be told as a tragedy: out of
pride or love of power he accepted a Ring from Sauron. It corrupted
him and ultimately led to his death on the Pelennor Fields. But of
course we don't really know anything at all about his interior life.

I just thought to look in my dictionary (AHD4). It says:

"1. a. A drama or literary work in which the main character is
brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a
consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope
with unfavorable circumstances.

"b. The genre made up of such works.

"c. The art or theory of writing or producing these works.

"2. A play, film, television program, or other narrative work that
portrays or depicts calamitous events and has an unhappy but
meaningful ending.

"3. A disastrous event, especially one involving distressing loss or
injury to life: an expedition that ended in tragedy, with all hands
lost at sea.

"4. A tragic aspect or element."

I think senses 2 through 4 are irrelevant to our present discussion.
Sense 1a seems to accord fairly well with what I remember from my
English classes.

Stan Brown

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Jun 7, 2012, 7:23:12 PM6/7/12
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On Tue, 5 Jun 2012 23:53:52 -0500, Bill O'Meally wrote:
>
> On 2012-06-04 22:49:03 -0500, eruvatar said:
>
> > Just wondering if anyone had a thought on who was the more tragic
> > figure in Professor Tolkiens tales,Feanor, Boromir or Thorin
> > Oakenshield? Personally I would lean more towards Boromir. Dutiful Son
> > who really wasn't thinking of himself when he tried to take the ring
> > from Frodo but of Gondor and his father. In the end he acquitted
> > himself by saving Merry and Pippin, but these are just my thoughts.
> > Yours?
> >
>
> You really think Boromir selflessly only had Gondor on his mind and not
> his own self aggrandizement?

Why could it not be both? Do you doubt that Churchill wanted the
best for the UK at the same time that e wanted power for himself?
Yes, he wanted power, but not as an end in itself, as a means to
saving Britain. Of course, if he had had a Ring and were immortal,
his motives would gradually have shifted to wanting power for its own
sake and caring nothing for what harm might befall England.

It's a slippery slope. Remember that at the beginning of the Second
Age, Sauron wanted the good of Middle-earth. (This is more clear in
a Letter than it is in Silm.)

Stan Brown

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Jun 7, 2012, 7:26:23 PM6/7/12
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IS that so bad? If he actually could lead Gondor to victory, then
why not?

The real test would be if someone came along who could do a better
job and had a better right. Then would he be content to give up the
supreme command, or would he cling to power at the expense of Gondor?
Faramir said that Boromir would greatly reverence Aragorn, but
Boromir never had to face that ultimate test. Denethor did, and
chose to cling to power rather than entertain the possibility of ever
following Aragorn.

derek

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Jun 8, 2012, 10:33:40 AM6/8/12
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On Jun 7, 8:26 pm, Stan Brown <the_stan_br...@fastmail.fm> wrote:
> On Wed, 6 Jun 2012 13:52:45 -0500, Bill O'Meally wrote:
>
> > On 2012-06-06 11:22:04 -0500, derek said:
> > > That's a trick question, right?  I don't think Boromir really
> > > distinguishes between Gondor and the Stewards thereof.  I'm sure he
> > > completely believes that what's good for Boromir is good for Gondor.
>
> > No one can doubt Boromir's love of Gondor. But the only thing Boromir
> > would rather have seen than a Gondor victorious would have been a
> > Gondor victorious with Boromir as its captain.
>
> IS that so bad?  If he actually could lead Gondor to victory, then
> why not?
>
> The real test would be if someone came along who could do a better
> job and had a better right. Then would he be content to give up the
> supreme command, or would he cling to power at the expense of Gondor?
> Faramir said that Boromir would greatly reverence Aragorn, but
> Boromir never had to face that ultimate test.  Denethor did, and
> chose to cling to power rather than entertain the possibility of ever
> following Aragorn.

He killed himself (and tried to kill his heir), rather than follow
Aragorn - that hardly seems to be "clinging to power". In fact, it
seems to me to be a tacit acceptance of Aragorn's claim. If he wasn't
sure that the rightful King had returned, surely he would have clung
harder.,

John W Kennedy

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Jun 8, 2012, 11:04:20 AM6/8/12
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On 2012-06-07 17:48:50 +0000, O. Sharp said:

> Glancing at the discussion thus far, I wonder if everybody's playing with
> the same definition of "tragedy" or "tragic". (At least nobody seems to be
> using Mel Brooks' definition here: "Tragedy is when I cut my finger.
> Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die." <g>)
>
> My old Greek literature teacher had an interesting definition of tragedy,
> which I'll toss out there as a place to start: a tragedy, she opined, is
> a story where the protagonist, despite being physically injured or
> destroyed, manages nonetheless to achieve a personal, moral victory.

Alas, it's not adequate. How does this describe "Richard III"
(described as a tragedy in its first edition) or Marlowe's "Faust"?
(Or, for that matter, Goethe's?) A fortiori, how does it describe
"Ion", "Iphegenia among the Taurides", or "Cymbeline" (listed as a
tragedy in the First Folio)?

--
John W Kennedy
"The grand art mastered the thudding hammer of Thor
And the heart of our lord Taliessin determined the war."
-- Charles Williams. "Mount Badon"

John W Kennedy

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Jun 8, 2012, 11:41:31 AM6/8/12
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On 2012-06-07 23:19:31 +0000, Stan Brown said:

> On Thu, 7 Jun 2012 17:48:50 +0000 (UTC), O. Sharp wrote:
>> My old Greek literature teacher had an interesting definition of tragedy,
>> which I'll toss out there as a place to start: a tragedy, she opined, is
>> a story where the protagonist, despite being physically injured or
>> destroyed, manages nonetheless to achieve a personal, moral victory.
>>
>
> My definition -- which I *think* I got from my high-school English
> teacher -- is that a tragedy is a story where the central character
> is destroyed by a character flaw, often but not necessarily hubris.
> And my dictionary seems to agree.
>
> OEdipus is the classic tragedy, I think you'll agree?

It is obviously what Aristotle has in mind. But why should Aristotle
have the last word?

> I don't see
> how he achieves any sort of personal, moral victory. Túrin is a
> tragic figure (to me) because, again, he is destroyed by his hubris.
> (Tragic figures often leave collateral damage, such as Jocasta and
> Nienor Níniel.)
>
> Thorin Oakenshield is not a tragic figure, because although he had
> pride and greed, which fueled his anger, he did not let them run
> unchecked to destroy him. If he had, he would have stayed walled up
> in the Mountain when the goblins approached, and let them and the
> Elves and Men fight it out. He would also not have asked Bilbo's
> pardon.
>
> Fëanor *is* a tragic figure, because his pride destroyed him and
> thousands of others. Like OEdipus, he received warnings from the
> gods but ignored them because he thought he was greater than fate. I
> don't understand the people who say Fëanor could have been a tragedy
> but Tolkien didn't flesh him out enough. I think we have quite a
> good idea of his character, because many of his speeches are quoted
> in Silm.

A few snatches of public rhetoric do not a characterization make. If
they could, every schoolteacher who ever penned a historical pageant
would be another Shakespeare.

> In a way, the Witch-king's story might be told as a tragedy: out of
> pride or love of power he accepted a Ring from Sauron. It corrupted
> him and ultimately led to his death on the Pelennor Fields. But of
> course we don't really know anything at all about his interior life.
>
> I just thought to look in my dictionary (AHD4). It says:
>
> "1. a. A drama or literary work in which the main character is
> brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a
> consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope
> with unfavorable circumstances.
>
> "b. The genre made up of such works.
>
> "c. The art or theory of writing or producing these works.
>
> "2. A play, film, television program, or other narrative work that
> portrays or depicts calamitous events and has an unhappy but
> meaningful ending.
>
> "3. A disastrous event, especially one involving distressing loss or
> injury to life: an expedition that ended in tragedy, with all hands
> lost at sea.
>
> "4. A tragic aspect or element."
>
> I think senses 2 through 4 are irrelevant to our present discussion.
> Sense 1a seems to accord fairly well with what I remember from my
> English classes.

The American Heritage Dictionary is not a book of theatre criticism.

--
John W Kennedy
Read the remains of Shakespeare's lost play, now annotated!
http://www.SKenSoftware.com/Double%20Falshood

Paul S. Person

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Jun 8, 2012, 1:19:40 PM6/8/12
to
On Fri, 8 Jun 2012 11:04:20 -0400, John W Kennedy
<jwk...@attglobal.net> wrote:

>On 2012-06-07 17:48:50 +0000, O. Sharp said:
>
>> Glancing at the discussion thus far, I wonder if everybody's playing with
>> the same definition of "tragedy" or "tragic". (At least nobody seems to be
>> using Mel Brooks' definition here: "Tragedy is when I cut my finger.
>> Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die." <g>)
>>
>> My old Greek literature teacher had an interesting definition of tragedy,
>> which I'll toss out there as a place to start: a tragedy, she opined, is
>> a story where the protagonist, despite being physically injured or
>> destroyed, manages nonetheless to achieve a personal, moral victory.
>
>Alas, it's not adequate. How does this describe "Richard III"
>(described as a tragedy in its first edition) or Marlowe's "Faust"?
>(Or, for that matter, Goethe's?) A fortiori, how does it describe
>"Ion", "Iphegenia among the Taurides", or "Cymbeline" (listed as a
>tragedy in the First Folio)?

AFAIK, Shakespeare was not an Ancient Greek. I would, therefore, not,
a priori, expect a definition of Ancient Greek Tragedy to apply to
Shakespeare.

Could there be a difference between classic tragedy and other kinds of
tragedy, such as Shakespearian tragedy or modern tragedy?
--
"Nature must be explained in
her own terms through
the experience of our senses."

Troels Forchhammer

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Jun 8, 2012, 3:54:45 PM6/8/12
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In message <news:jqqpi2$6u7$1...@reader1.panix.com>
"O. Sharp" <o...@panix.com> spoke these staves:
>
> Glancing at the discussion thus far, I wonder if everybody's
> playing with the same definition of "tragedy" or "tragic".

So did I -- but upon considering it, I think it is reasonably clear
that we do not ;)

<snip>

> My old Greek literature teacher had an interesting definition of
> tragedy, which I'll toss out there as a place to start: a tragedy,
> she opined, is a story where the protagonist, despite being
> physically injured or destroyed, manages nonetheless to achieve a
> personal, moral victory.

I can't say that I have been using a clear definition at all -- some
idea of a half-remembered explanation in school (a memory that is
fast approaching three decades) is all.

Trying to look it up, however, I would say that Boromir is _not_
tragic in the classical sense precisely because he manages to
overcome his character flaw. Had he died as he lay crying after
realising what he had tried to do, he would have fit the description
to a tee:

a: character flaw (and I think one could easily argue that Boromir's
desire to elevate himself by the power of the Master Ring was a good
example of hubris).

b: said character flaw leading eventually to great suffering

c: the suffering having an element of catharsis for the audience (the
reader)

d: a realisation about the character flaw being wrong ('some
revelation or recognition (anagnorisis--"knowing again" or "knowing
back" or "knowing throughout" ) about human fate, destiny, and the
will of the gods')

(The above elements are pieced together from various accounts found
on the 'net for the major sources, see below)

Had it ended there, it would definitely have been a tragedy, but by
overcoming his own character flaw and redeeming himself, Boromir's
story ends on a eucatastrophic note that is, I would say,
incompatible with a tragedy -- the overall story-arc, while including
a local fall, is no longer about the _fall_ of Boromir, but about his
rising from the fall to a (moral) stature that is higher that before.

Paul asks if (and I think John implies that) modern tragedy can be
different from the ancient Greek tragedy. I think it is perfectly
reasonable to presume that Aristotle should _not_ have the last word
and that tragedy today, or in the nineteen-forties and -fifties,
could be something quite different from (even if evolved from) the
tragedy of Aristotle. However, I am not particularly knowledgeable
about the criticism of neither theatre or modern literature, so I
will refrain from voicing opinions based on any modern sense of
"tragedy". (I am not very knowledgeable about ancient Greek tragedy
either, so I could be completely wrong about that, too, but at least
I know a little, which is a little more than I know about the modern
senses . . . ;-)


Sources:

Wikipedia: "Tragedy"
URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy

"Tragedy"
URL: http://faculty.gvsu.edu/websterm/Tragedy.htm

"Outline of Aristotle's Theory of Tragedy in the _POETICS_"
URL: http://www2.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus/poetics.html

--
Troels Forchhammer <troelsfo(a)googlewave.com>
Valid e-mail is <troelsfo(a)gmail.com>
Please put [AFT], [RABT] or 'Tolkien' in subject.

Truth in science can be defined as the working hypothesis
best suited to open the way to the next better one.
- Konrad Lorenz

Stan Brown

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Jun 8, 2012, 6:04:50 PM6/8/12
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He explicitly rejected Aragorn's claim:

"'But I say to thee, Gandalf Mithrandir, I will not be thy tool! I am
Steward of the House of Anárion. I will not step down to be the
dotard chamberlain of an upstart. Even were his claim proved to me,
still he comes but of the line of Isildur. I will not bow to such a
one, last of a ragged house long bereft of lordship and dignity.'"

Notice that bit -- "Even were his claim proved to me" -- Denethor
would not yield to the rightful king even if his right to the throne
was proved.

Denethor's suicide was part and parcel of his clinging to power,
though it appears paradoxical. Maybe it would be nearer the mark if
I said "doing what he wanted, even at the cost of destroying his
city". He insisted on ruling Gondor to the last moment of his life,
and then burning himself like "the heathen kings", as Gandalf pointed
out. He was prepared to see Gondor destroyed rather than even try to
defend it, because only in that way could he continue to command till
the end of his life.

No One in Particular

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Jun 8, 2012, 10:05:55 PM6/8/12
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"derek" <de...@pointerstop.ca> wrote in message
news:238c9911-70f9-4b7a...@ra8g2000pbc.googlegroups.com...
The main cause of his suicide though, was greif at the loss of Boromir, and
his despair over the impending loss of the battle, and the subsequent sack
of Gondor, both of which he had come to conclude were inevitable. He did
reject Aragorn's claim, as someone else has pointed out, but even if Aragon
had died on the Paths of the Dead (or anywhere else) and was not returning
to claim his title, that scene would have still played out basically the
same, since Denethor's will had been twisted broken by Sauron via the
palantir.

Brian

derek

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Jun 8, 2012, 10:41:35 PM6/8/12
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I don't disagree with anything you say - except the conclusion. If he
didn't believe that Aragorn was the rightful king - or even if he did,
but felt he could swing the nobility of Gondor to support him - he'd
have had no need to commit suicide. It is _too_ paradoxical to
believe that by killing himself and his heir he is clinging to power.
He is simply relinquishing power on his own terms.

Michael Ikeda

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Jun 9, 2012, 8:36:04 AM6/9/12
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derek <de...@pointerstop.ca> wrote in
news:6868409b-ac16-4f08...@m10g2000vbn.googlegroups.
com:
I'd say (as another poster has already noted elsewhere) that
Denethor's perception of Aragorn's status was not a particularly
important factor in his suicide. Denethor kills himself because he
is convinced that Gondor is doomed whatever he does. It doesn't
particularly matter whether Aragorn is the rightful king, Denethor
doesn't believe there's going to be a country for either of them to
rule.

Troels Forchhammer

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Jun 9, 2012, 11:16:16 AM6/9/12
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In message <news:jqub0k$epv$1...@adenine.netfront.net>
"No One in Particular" <brianc...@yahoo.com> spoke these staves:
>
> "derek" <de...@pointerstop.ca> wrote in message
> news:238c9911-70f9-4b7a...@ra8g2000pbc.googlegroups.
>>
>> com... On Jun 7, 8:26 pm, Stan Brown <the_stan_br...@fastmail.fm>
>> wrote:
>>>
[...]
>>> Boromir never had to face that ultimate test.  Denethor did, and
>>> chose to cling to power rather than entertain the possibility of
>>> ever following Aragorn.
>>
>> He killed himself (and tried to kill his heir), rather than
>> follow Aragorn - that hardly seems to be "clinging to power". In
>> fact, it seems to me to be a tacit acceptance of Aragorn's claim.
>> If he wasn't sure that the rightful King had returned, surely he
>> would have clung harder.,
>
> The main cause of his suicide though, was greif at the loss of
> Boromir, and his despair over the impending loss of the battle,
> and the subsequent sack of Gondor, both of which he had come to
> conclude were inevitable.

It has been suggested (most prominently by Tom Shippey in _J.R.R.
Tolkien - Author of the Century_) that Denethor also became convinced
that Sauron had regained the Master Ring (presumably from, in the
palantir, seeing Frodo captured in the tower of Cirith Ungol -- at
least that would fit the dates).

The fool's hope has failed. The Enemy has found it, and now
his power waxes; he sees our very thoughts, and all we do
is ruinous. (V,4 'The Siege of Gondor')

But that is merely extra icing on the cake of despair that Denethor
had been served, and nothing that has any bearing on the present
topic :)

> He did reject Aragorn's claim, as someone else has pointed out, but
> even if Aragon had died on the Paths of the Dead (or anywhere else)
> and was not returning to claim his title, that scene would have
> still played out basically the same, since Denethor's will had been
> twisted broken by Sauron via the palantir.

Exactly!

Denethor seems ambiguous about Aragorn's claim. At one hand he seems
to implicitly accept that Aragorn is whom he claims (descended in a
direct line from Isildur), but he appears careful not to accept that
claim explicitly, saying

So! With the left hand thou wouldst use me for a little
while as a shield against Mordor, and with the right bring
up this Ranger of the North to supplant me.
'But I say to thee, Gandalf Mithrandir, I will not be thy
tool! I am Steward of the House of Anárion. I will not step
down to be the dotard chamberlain of an upstart. Even were
his claim proved to me, still he comes but of the line of
Isildur. I will not bow to such a one, last of a ragged
house long bereft of lordship and dignity.'
(V,7 'The Pyre of Denethor')

The only connection I could possibly imagine would be if Denethor
believed that the people and council of Gondor would accept Aragorn,
which may have added to Denethor's despair. It is suggested in the
appendices that Denethor actually knew who Aragorn was even when
Aragorn served Denethor's father as 'Thorongil' in which case he may
have guessed that Aragorn would be able to gain the acceptance of the
people and the council even if Denethor was fighting him hard every
step of the way.

One might say that if it had been only a matter of Aragorn's claim,
then it is likely that Denethor would have clinged to power by all
means available to him (particularly if he had still had Boromir to
pass the rule onto), but the whole matter of losing both sons (as he
thought) and his visions in the palantír being manipulated by Sauron
intervened, causing the great despair that led Denethor to his pyre.

--
Troels Forchhammer <troelsfo(a)googlewave.com>
Valid e-mail is <troelsfo(a)gmail.com>
Please put [AFT], [RABT] or 'Tolkien' in subject.

In this case the cause (not the 'hero') was triumphant,
because by the exercise of pity, mercy, and forgiveness of
injury, a situation was produced in which all was redressed
and disaster averted.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, /The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien/ #192

Morgoth's Curse

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Jun 10, 2012, 12:04:23 PM6/10/12
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I am surprised that no one has yet mentioned Gollum.

"Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean
hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and
grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he
turned away, peering back up towards the pass, shaking his head, as if
engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting
out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo's knee - but
almost the touch was a caress. For a fleeting moment, could one of the
sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an
old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far
beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, ad the fields and streams of
youth; an old starved pitiable thing."

That is one of the most powerful passages that Tolkien ever
wrote. It is at that moment that Smeagol, for the first time in his
long, long life, recognizes and acknowledges the truth. He
understands what the combination of his own pride and the Ring have
done to him as well as the emptiness of all his schemes and plots. The
right gesture or words might have set him on the road to redemption,
but it was his misfortune that Sam woke first.

Morgoth's Curse

Matthew Bladen

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Jun 11, 2012, 2:47:35 PM6/11/12
to
In article <MPG.2a3b01109...@news.individual.net>, Stan Brown
<the_sta...@fastmail.fm> wrote:

[snip]

> In a way, the Witch-king's story might be told as a tragedy: out of
> pride or love of power he accepted a Ring from Sauron. It corrupted
> him and ultimately led to his death on the Pelennor Fields. But of
> course we don't really know anything at all about his interior life.

A decade or so ago, a former poster to the Tolkien NGs and member of
TEUNC who went by 'vagabond' wrote a very interesting essay arguing that
the story of Tal-Elmar in HOME 12 was about the early life of the Witch-
king. I don't remember the detailed argument and haven't found it
online, but it was an intriguing suggestion.

[snip]

--
Matthew

derek

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Jun 11, 2012, 4:31:58 PM6/11/12
to
On Jun 11, 3:47 pm, Matthew Bladen <tribi...@hotNOSPAMmail.co.uk>
wrote:
> In article <MPG.2a3b011092b1751098d...@news.individual.net>, Stan Brown
>
> <the_stan_br...@fastmail.fm> wrote:
>
> [snip]
>
> > In a way, the Witch-king's story might be told as a tragedy: out of
> > pride or love of power he accepted a Ring from Sauron.  It corrupted
> > him and ultimately led to his death on the Pelennor Fields. But of
> > course we don't really know anything at all about his interior life.
>
> A decade or so ago, a former poster to the Tolkien NGs and member of
> TEUNC who went by 'vagabond' wrote a very interesting essay arguing that
> the story of Tal-Elmar in HOME 12 was about the early life of the Witch-
> king. I don't remember the detailed argument and haven't found it
> online, but it was an intriguing suggestion.

This one? http://web.archive.org/web/20040610220045/http://www.geocities.com/ar_nimruzir/

Matthew Bladen

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Jun 11, 2012, 6:36:22 PM6/11/12
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In article <157d7a47-8cbd-49f4-b528-3159e07fa5d0
@e7g2000pbg.googlegroups.com>, derek <de...@pointerstop.ca> wrote:
>
> On Jun 11, 3:47ï¿œpm, Matthew Bladen <tribi...@hotNOSPAMmail.co.uk>
> wrote:
> > In article <MPG.2a3b011092b1751098d...@news.individual.net>, Stan Brown
> >
> > <the_stan_br...@fastmail.fm> wrote:
> >
> > [snip]
> >
> > > In a way, the Witch-king's story might be told as a tragedy: out of
> > > pride or love of power he accepted a Ring from Sauron. ï¿œIt corrupted
> > > him and ultimately led to his death on the Pelennor Fields. But of
> > > course we don't really know anything at all about his interior life.
> >
> > A decade or so ago, a former poster to the Tolkien NGs and member of
> > TEUNC who went by 'vagabond' wrote a very interesting essay arguing that
> > the story of Tal-Elmar in HOME 12 was about the early life of the Witch-
> > king. I don't remember the detailed argument and haven't found it
> > online, but it was an intriguing suggestion.
>
> This one? http://web.archive.org/web/20040610220045/http://www.geocities.com/ar_nimruzir/

That's it. Thanks!

Reading it again, I'm not sure about the arguments; if nothing else, I
would expect some trace of the ultimate purpose of the story to have
survived in the notes and other materials. Still, it's an interesting
idea.

--
Matthew

Paul S. Person

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Jun 12, 2012, 12:20:24 PM6/12/12
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On Thu, 7 Jun 2012 19:19:31 -0400, Stan Brown
<the_sta...@fastmail.fm> wrote:

>On Thu, 7 Jun 2012 17:48:50 +0000 (UTC), O. Sharp wrote:
>> My old Greek literature teacher had an interesting definition of tragedy,
>> which I'll toss out there as a place to start: a tragedy, she opined, is
>> a story where the protagonist, despite being physically injured or
>> destroyed, manages nonetheless to achieve a personal, moral victory.
>>
>
>My definition -- which I *think* I got from my high-school English
>teacher -- is that a tragedy is a story where the central character
>is destroyed by a character flaw, often but not necessarily hubris.
>And my dictionary seems to agree.
>
>OEdipus is the classic tragedy, I think you'll agree? I don't see
>how he achieves any sort of personal, moral victory.

It's been a while since I read the plays; however, since the Greeks
did them as trilogies, it is possible that the entire trilogy would
need to be considered, not just a single play. IIRC, at least one
trilogy ends with Oedipus dying after convincing Theseus to go to
Thebes and rectify the situation.

The real problem is that the myth of Oedipus, as related in Graves'
/The Greek Myths/ (a book with more citations per square millimeter
than any other book I have ever seen) makes it clear that Oedipus did
not suffer for a personal flaw, but rather was part of a long story,
beginning with an ancestor offending the gods by (IIRC) maltreating a
guest, and ending with the story of the Seven Against Thebes and
Theseus' putting things right again.

Oedipus, in the myth, was fated from his birth to murder his father
and marry his mother. When his parents learn this, he is abandoned int
the woods ("exposed") but end up adopted by a different royal pair in
a far-away corner of Greece. When he becomes a young man and visits
Delphi, the priestess informs him of his fate and, precisely to avoid
it, he goes to a part of Greece as far away from those he believes to
be his parents as possible. The story is more about how the gods play
with men than it is about any character flaw of Oedipus.

>I just thought to look in my dictionary (AHD4). It says:
>
>"1. a. A drama or literary work in which the main character is
>brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a
>consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope
>with unfavorable circumstances.

On the other hand, Oedipus could be seen as suffering from an
"inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances", viz, the vengeance
of the gods.

Odysseus

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Jun 13, 2012, 10:28:06 PM6/13/12
to
In article <kfqet79m6arcjt4lr...@4ax.com>,
Paul S. Person <pspe...@ix.netscom.com.invalid> wrote:

<snip>

> >I just thought to look in my dictionary (AHD4). It says:
> >
> >"1. a. A drama or literary work in which the main character is
> >brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a
> >consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope
> >with unfavorable circumstances.
>
> On the other hand, Oedipus could be seen as suffering from an
> "inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances", viz, the vengeance
> of the gods.

To the ancient Greeks, the gods' emnity might have been regarded as a
tragic flaw or a moral weakness, or at least equivalent to either of
those: ISTM that attributing the primary responsibility for an
individual's fate to the person himself is a fairly modern tendency.

--
Odysseus

Stan Brown

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Jun 14, 2012, 6:03:48 AM6/14/12
to
On Wed, 13 Jun 2012 20:28:06 -0600, Odysseus wrote:
>
> In article <kfqet79m6arcjt4lr...@4ax.com>,
> Paul S. Person <pspe...@ix.netscom.com.invalid> wrote:
>
> <snip>
>
> > >I just thought to look in my dictionary (AHD4). It says:
> > >
> > >"1. a. A drama or literary work in which the main character is
> > >brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a
> > >consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope
> > >with unfavorable circumstances.

Paul did not write that and quote from the dictionary; I did.

> > On the other hand, Oedipus could be seen as suffering from an
> > "inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances", viz, the vengeance
> > of the gods.
>
> To the ancient Greeks, the gods' emnity might have been regarded as a
> tragic flaw or a moral weakness, or at least equivalent to either of
> those: ISTM that attributing the primary responsibility for an
> individual's fate to the person himself is a fairly modern tendency.

Oedipus' tragic flaw was his own pride (hubris), not the gods'
enmity.

That he was abandoned by his parents was indirectly the fault of the
gods because they provided the prophecy to which his parents reacted.
But they also inspired Tiresias, who warned him against pursuing
Laius' murder. It was Oedipus' own choice to disregard the warning
of the gods, just as F�anor chose to disregard the warning of the
Valar.

Paul S. Person

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Jun 14, 2012, 2:06:46 PM6/14/12
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On Thu, 14 Jun 2012 06:03:48 -0400, Stan Brown
<the_sta...@fastmail.fm> wrote:

>> To the ancient Greeks, the gods' emnity might have been regarded as a
>> tragic flaw or a moral weakness, or at least equivalent to either of
>> those: ISTM that attributing the primary responsibility for an
>> individual's fate to the person himself is a fairly modern tendency.
>
>Oedipus' tragic flaw was his own pride (hubris), not the gods'
>enmity.
>
>That he was abandoned by his parents was indirectly the fault of the
>gods because they provided the prophecy to which his parents reacted.
>But they also inspired Tiresias, who warned him against pursuing
>Laius' murder. It was Oedipus' own choice to disregard the warning
>of the gods, just as Fëanor chose to disregard the warning of the
>Valar.

Teiresias only appears after the plague (Graves, op cit, Vol 2,
105.g). This is long after the encounter with Laius (105.d), who might
better be said to have provoked Oedipus with his (Laius') pride and to
have died for that mistake, rather than to have been murdered, and the
subsequent events in Thebes. Teiresias tells Oedipus how to stop the
plague, and then reveals to him that he has, in fact, fulfilled his
destiny.

Without intending to. While consciously trying to escape his fate. The
only "pride" involved appears to be the belief that he could escape
his fate, and so defy the gods.

At least, that is the way it is in the myth. In the plays, of course,
things may be a bit different. Dramatic license may have been taken.
Then again, 105.j, which records the effects of Teiresias' revelation,
has both Apollodorus and Sophocles as its source, so perhaps the
Graves' version, like some of JRRT's works, is a summary and omits
some details. Although it certainly has an awful lot of detail in it!

Given that Teiresias does give advice in the play, it is hard to see
how taking Teiresias advice would have changed the situation. And it
was the intent of the gods was that the situation unfold, so it is not
clear that Oedipus actually had a choice, although pretending he did
might have been necessary in a play. That is the point of these myths:
don't tick off the gods, and don't be born into a family that has, in
the past, ticked off the gods. If you do, your personal traits won't
matter: you are in for it, no matter what you do or don't do.

Johnny1a

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Jul 27, 2012, 1:36:53 PM7/27/12
to
On Jun 7, 12:48 pm, "O. Sharp" <o...@panix.com> wrote:
> Glancing at the discussion thus far, I wonder if everybody's playing with
> the same definition of "tragedy" or "tragic". (At least nobody seems to be
> using Mel Brooks' definition here: "Tragedy is when I cut my finger.
> Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die." <g>)
>
> My old Greek literature teacher had an interesting definition of tragedy,
> which I'll toss out there as a place to start: a tragedy, she opined, is
> a story where the protagonist, despite being physically injured or
> destroyed, manages nonetheless to achieve a personal, moral victory.

I can't agree with her definition, that's almost the _antithesis_ of a
Tragedy as I would define it. I won't say that a Tragic protagonist
can't wina moral victory along with his/her essential defeat, but it
isn't essential and it can be counteractive.

(I'm using the capital T in Tragedy to distinguish from the colloquial
'sad story' definition.)

The ancients' definition of Tragedy doesn't work when applied to
Tolkien, because they didn't necessarily accept free will or choice as
legitimate in context. JRRT's world, rooted in Western Christendom's
thinking, does accept just that.

My definiton of a Tragedy is one where the protagonist and/or others
face defeat or loss of a high estate by virtue either of 'bad choices'
or 'a basic character flaw', or both. The bad results have to have
been avoidable. If they aren't, it's not a Tragedy, just a story
about something bad that happened to someone. The person who could
have avoided has to have had a realistic, serious _chance_ of avoiding
it, by means other than luck, or again, it's not Tragedy.

Thus a story, set in today's world, where the Sun goes into some
freakish nova state and wipes out the human race is just tragic, not
Tragic. Nobody could have known about it and nobody could have done
anything about it if they knew anyway. No power, no responsibility.

Likewise a story where the protagonist or someone dear to him dies
when a meteorite strikes him as he walks down the street is not
Tragic, merely maybe tragic. He could have avoided it by walking down
a different street or staying home, sure, but he had no way to know
that, there's no reasonable way he could be expected to know the
meteorite would strike him when it did.

Now, either scenario could _become_ a Tragedy IF the protagonist(s)
were given some credible, plausible warning of what was coming, and
had some ability to _act_ on that warning, and did not. But only then
would those events be possibly Tragic.

>
> By that definition, anyway, Boromir's death would qualify as a tragedy:
> he's about as physically defeated as one can get, but manages to gain a
> victory over his own craving for the Ring. Feanor, frankly, doesn't strike
> me as a tragic figure; yes, his pride got him to where the snot was beaten
> out of him, but there was never any personal or moral awakening or
> realization of how stupid he'd been; one gets the feeling that, if healed
> of his physical wounds, he would run back out and do the same thing all
> over again.

In Boromir's case, it was Tragic because it was a basic character flaw
on his part that the Ring played upon to bring him down, his desire
for _personal_ glory and _familial_ glory, and indeed the emphasis on
_glory_ in the first place. Boromir was by no means an evil man, in
his nature, but that flaw in his character was there for the Ring to
play on, and the Tragedy comes in that he _let it happen_. His
personal pride caused him to not take the warnings of Elrond and
Gandalf seriously enough, and to leave him open to the Ring's
seductions.

It remains Tragic, even though he had a victory of sorts later,
because so much was lost by his fall. The Fellowship was split, his
own life (he was of fairly pure Numenorean descent, he might have
lived and thriven and contributed much over many decades yet), the
removal of his sword and skills from the defense of Gondor, and its
contribution to the madness and fall of his father Denethor (and thus
to the needless death of a guard and Beregond's guilt over that
death), among other things.

Feanor is a Tragic figure too, but it lies deeper back. His Tragedy
lies in his Pride clouding his judgement and perception, making him
(again) vulnerable to the lies of Melkor. Pride is a key element in
the fall of Feanor and Boromir, the former's fall was vastly greater
and did far more harm, but the pattern is the same.

Pride kept Feanor from recognizing the core truth that all his
abilities and powers were not his own. That is, he didn't _make
himself_ the greatest of the Elves in skill and power, his abilities
ultimately derived from the innate talents granted him by God and the
knowledge and training the Nolder received from the Valar. A Feanor
raised in barbarism and struggling to survive in the wild would never
have been able to make the Palantiri, the Silmarils, etc.

Which is not to belittle the self-discipline, care, and effort he put
into developing his skills and his creations. But he remembered the
latter and forgot the former in his Pride, and he allowed his
resentment over his father's remarriage to Indis to drive him to wrong
actions. Nobody _made_ Feanor make the choices he made. When Melkor
started to put the lies in circulation about Fingolfin's plans to
usurp his place, Feanor's pride made him amenable to listening to
those lies.

Pride drove Feanor to bad choice after bad choice after bad choice.
Because he had a choice, it was Tragic, he might have chosen
differently at various stages, and in so doing left the whole history
of Valinor and Middle Earth better. He _could have_, but he did not.

Now, arguably, some of his later bad decisions _might_ be reasonably
ascribed to partial insanity over some of what Morgoth had done, he
might have been not thinking straight after the murder of his father,
but it was his own previous choices that had partly led up to those
events, too.

Thorin is not a Tragic figure, because unlike Boromir and Feanor, he
_did_ conquer his Pride and do the right thing. It might be tragic in
that his death was sad and a loss to his friends, but he did not allow
his vices to rule him in the final crunch, where Boromir and Feanor
_did_.

Thorin's grandfather and father, however, arguably _are_ Tragic
figures, though we see very little of their detailed stories. The
decision of Thror to enter Moria, and Thrain to set out wondering in
the wilderness, were avoidable. Granted the influence of their Ring
has to be factored in, but just as with Boromir and the One Ring, the
Ring would have had to have something to work with in the first place.

That said, JRRT himself noted in his Letters that it's possible for an
Incarnate to be 'morally overwhelmed', to be placed in a situation
where s/he simply does not have the necessary strength to resist on
his or her own, no matter how hard he or she might try.

Johnny1a

unread,
Jul 27, 2012, 1:45:39 PM7/27/12
to
On Jun 4, 10:49 pm, "eruvatar" <m...@thatplace.com> wrote:
>  Just wondering if anyone had a thought on who was the more tragic
> figure in Professor Tolkiens tales,Feanor, Boromir or Thorin
> Oakenshield? Personally I would lean more towards Boromir. Dutiful Son
> who really wasn't thinking of himself when he tried to take the ring
> from Frodo but of Gondor and his father. In the end he acquitted
> himself by saving Merry and Pippin, but these are just my thoughts.
> Yours?
>
>  Eruvatar @middleearthblog.blogspot.com

As I point out elsewhere, Thorin is not Tragic in the traditional
sense, he _succeeded_ in overcoming his character flaws and
temptations, albeit at the cost of his life. Boromir failed in doing
that, and made a partial expiation at the cost of his life.

All Middle-Earth (and even Valinor) in Tolkien's legendarium is Tragic
in a sense, but in a large, general sort of way.

The most Tragic of the Elves are the Noldor, whose Pride and Lust (for
knowledge and power rather than sensual desires) brought them down.
This played out in the story of Feanor and his leading the Noldor out
of Valinor, and _repeated_ itself on a smaller scale in the Second Age
with Sauron's seduction of the Noldor of Eregion. The latter made the
Rings (and supplied Sauron with the knowledge he needed to make the
One Ring) driven by the same character flaws that brought Feanor down
in the First Age.

Isildur is another Tragic figure whose fall worsened the history of
the whole world. It would have been (physically) _easy_ to destroy
the One Ring at the end of the Second Age. Sauron was defeated, the
military power of the Alliance was in control over Mordor, Orodruin
was rumblingly active and right there at hand. Isildur had the advice
and input of Elrond, Galadriel, and Cirdan about why he should do so,
and the evidence of his own senses all around him about the
implications of Sauronic power.

But he chose otherwise, nearly damning himself and twisting the
history of Arda for the worst. Yet he was not an evil man (yet).
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