In message <news:FeedndcEt9qfIgDI...@giganews.com
> spoke these staves:
>> "Troels Forchhammer" wrote in message news:
>> In message <news:b_ednV1MCf5VNwDI...@giganews.com
>> "tony" <to...@hotmail.com
> spoke these staves:
>>> How is Tolkien's concept of an imaginary past different from
>>> the concept of a parallel world.
>> Tolkien concept of an imaginary past still leads to this, non-
>> imagined, present.
>> It is at the foundation of Tolkien's mythology that it describes
>> a an imagined pre-history of _this_ world, and that somewhere
>> (presumably at some point between the end of the Fourth Age and
>> the rise of the Roman Empire) the timelines of Tolkien's
>> mythology and of our known Primary World history would merge.
> Thank you for your well written and thoughtful reply. I would
> like to point out some apparent weaknesses in the point of view
> you have advanced.
> 1. Tolkien's view of the gods is inconsistent with present
That, I think, is rather a bold statement :)
We would, of course, need to look not at our current knowledge of
history, but of Tolkien's knowledge of the pre-history of England and
the English at the time when he started on this (the exact date is a
bit blurry, but at some point between, say, 1914 and 1918).
> Although in present history we have documents describing
> Norse gods, there is nothing like the mythology Tolkien advanced
> in his supposedly imaginary past that is consistent with current
> religious history.
That, I think, is very much a part of the point.
Tolkien was not trying to describe someone else's pagan mythology,
but was, in the beginning, trying to create a mythology that belonged
to the English, not to the Norse, the Goths, the Greek, the Romans,
or any other European people (or _volk_, to use the German phrase).
He was, in other words, trying to recreate something that he felt
must have been there, but which had disappeared almost entirely.
This was Tolkien's outset. As I said, this objective would gradually
become less important to Tolkien, but because the core concepts of
his mythology remained fairly stable throughout his whole life, this
idea of an asterisk mythology for the English people and lands and
language [*] remained, deep down, at the heart of the mythology.
Later developments, however, such as the Hobbits and all of the Third
Age, should not be seen as a part of this, but only as building on
However, because the later writings are based on this mythology, and
therefore still in some form contains the ideas that shaped it, the
"alternative world" was unthinkable to Tolkien. Therefore, while the
mythology had started as an imaginary mythology for the English, the
later writings, which lie in many ways (conceptually, historically,
in narrative mode, etc.) _between_ the mythological age and the
present, became an imaginary pre-history.
> 2. Tolkien's ideas in his fictional world are quite distinct from
> contemporary Christian ideas, and there seems to be no simple way
> to reconcile the two. In the Judeo Christian view of human
> origins there is Adam and Eve etcetera. In the Lord of the Rings
> there is not.
That is another mistake. Tolkien specifically wanted his mythology to
_not_ include the Christian faith. _
After_ he had written _The Lord of the Rings_ he became more
concerned with bringing the underlying philosophy and theology
governing his sub-creation to be more consistent with some parts of
Christian thought -- or at least bringing to not be too openly
INconsistent with Christian -- or, more specifically, Roman Catholic
Much has been made of Tolkien as a Christian author, and I think that
there is a tendency misunderstand how his faith shaped his work --
the influence in a number of situations is exaggerated to the point
where the authors convince themselves that the influence of other
mythologies can safely be ignored or summarily dismissed (which is a
very big mistake), while at the same time they tend to miss the
profound influence it had at a much deeper level, which is rarely
> 3. If we accept the idea that Tolkien wrote about an imaginary
> past and not a parallel world, Why is it that no evidence now
> exists or the ideas he detailed in the our current world? Why is
> there no fossil evidence of the existence of Elves, Dwarves,
> Hobbits, or Balrogs? How did all this material disappear from our
> current world, if as you assert, Tolkien describes a past or this
> world rather than a past of a parallel world?
I will acknowledge that it is, for me in 2015, considerably more
difficult to shrug this off saying "because we haven't found it yet",
than it would have been for Tolkien a century ago, as he was setting
out on this course. That is, however, not really all that relevant.
Tolkien would, I think, rather say that the evidence is there, but it
is scarce and fragmentary and inevitably interpreted erroneously.
Remember Tolkien's profession: he was a comparative philologist of
the old school, and the evidence of myths, folktales, folk beliefs,
etc. was, to him, far more important than archaeological evidence. He
was dealing with the history of stories, of myths and of language,
and that was, to him, the important evidence -- far more important
than any material evidence (unless, of course, in writing). The
absense of such evidence was certainly not going to bother him at
Still, he actually did go to some length to explain both why there
are no present-day Elves and why we don't see Hobbits in modern times
(his explanation for the latter has, I would agree, become invalid
since the publication of LotR).
>> This is tied strongly to the idea of an asterisk-mythology that
>> Tom Shippey introduces in his books
> I think that this kind of extrapolation is consistent with the
> concept of an parallel world also.
It might seem so to you, but I am certain that it would be very
different to Tolkien, to whom this kind of extrapolation was
inextricably tied to _reconstruction_ of that, which had been there.
>> So, to answer your question more simply: A parallel world does
>> not lead to _us_, but Tolkien's imaginary past does.
> I will assert that that Tolkien's" imaginary past" does not lead
> us to the present day, but instead it leads necessarily to a
> parallel, alternative present day reality.
Speaking from Tolkien's contemporary "present day", I would not be
able to agree to that "necessarily".
Also, I get the impression that you are, in actual fact, looking at
it the wrong way around -- looking to see if _you_ can extrapolate
from 2015 to the end of the Third Age.
The question that I assert that we should ask ourselves is this: if
we take a look _from inside Middle-earth_ (i.e. within the Faërie of
Tolkien's story) in the years of the reign of King Eldarion, might it
concievably lead to the discovery and translation, by one J.R.R.
Tolkien, in the early twentieth century of a copy of the Red Book,
despite no other material evidence. This question must, in my firm
opinion, be answered by "yes, it might.".
[*] Tolkien's ideas on the connections between a people, the language
they speak and the lands they inhabit is a topic that is still
regrettably understudied in modern Tolkien research.
Valid e-mail is <troelsfo(a)gmail.com
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