Creative Writing

A Retrospective Account of The Lord of the Rings Criticism hitherto

A brief exploration of the literary criticism produced from the 60's until the nowadays regarding Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
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  Real 1 Felipe A. Real H. Professor Barbara Trosko LET1742-1 Literary Research Methods 28 June 2007 A Retrospective Account of The Lord of the Rings Nowadays, it is an undeniable fact the importance of the 1,200-page literary work entitled ’ Criticism hitherto The Lord of the Rings, published in a three-volume edition, between 1954 and 1955  plus a complete volume of Appendixes a year later. But consequently with its impending and ever-increasing fame amongst youngsters from the 70’s onwards and also burgeoning deafness has been affecting literary scholars. In a recent attempt (2006) to revert this situation, Bowman declared that, “there has been a general neglect of The Lord of the RingsThe aforementioned richness of among scholars of fiction” (272). Two years earlier Michael Drout declared the need “to defend Tolkien’s work as a worthy object of serious literary study” (137). Therefore, this research—as well as Bowman, Hughes, Drout and others—also advocates the need for new insights on Tolkien’s magnum opus . This new revision of the work intends to demonstrate “some of the richness of Tolkien’s fiction” (Bowman 272). The Lord of the Rings lies in the work’s narrative features. In that sense, previously magnificent attempts have been done to rescue this novel from “sociological” or “pop-cultural” studies (Drout 137). Amidst these, we found the renowned essay “The Lord of the Rings: The Novel as Traditional Romance,” written in 1967  by George H. Thomson. One of this critic’s most noticeable characteristics is his high evaluation of the novel, which led him to appraise The Lord of the Rings as the “first attempt to write a fully developed traditional Romance since the Renaissance” (44).  Real 2 This “attempt” is characterized—according to Thomson—by the use of a basic story that is, in the surface, simple (44). Thomson summarizes the plot’s splendid, through these words: In the Elder Days nineteen rings were forged; and after that, the One Ring, which gave power over the nineteen. In The Hobbit, Bilbo by chance or fate comes into  possession of the One Ring. He passes it on to his nephew, Frodo. In The Lord of the RingsThis plot strongly resembles the six-phase concept of Romance defined by Frye in his Sauron, the Dark Lord, seeks the Ring. Gandalf understands that it must be kept from him for it can confer absolute power. He understands also that it must be destroyed, for the Ring of absolute power—Tolkien does not use these words—will corrupt any one, however strong and good. Frodo’s quest or mission is to carry the Ring to the heart of Mordor, to Mount Doom, whose fires alone can destroy it. (44) Anatomy of Criticism. The analysis of this equivalence is thoroughly developed in Thomson’s work, and concludes by declaring that the real remarkable aspect of The Lord of the Rings Now, another cynosure feature of the novel is its “eloquent” and “elevated” prose style, discernible from its pervasive and graceful archaism (Thomson 44). Likewise, Elizabeth Kirk agrees on this point and argues in favour of this style—against critics such as Patricia Spacks and Edmund Wilson—as one of the most commendable aspects of Tolkien’s writing. In fact, such kinds of defence are not few in number amongst Tolkien’s literary critics. Two recent examples of this tendency are the articles published by Drout and Ursula K. LeGuin in 2004. is the inclusion of so many themes of each of the Romance phases in the same story (45). Both authors, from completely opposites starting points—one concerned with the syntactic aspects of Tolkien’s prose and the other with its rhythmic patterns, respectively—   Real 3 conclude the same: that the apparent archaic language present on the novel—that should  provoke rejection on readers, according to its critics— is instead, one of the most powerful hooks of The Lord of the Rings Nevertheless, an easily noticeable—but often disregarded—aspect of this novel is the constant change of the narrator’s point of view throughout the story. As Bowman clearly affirms, the first position that Tolkien assumes in . The Lord of the Rings is one of editor/translator of the Red Book of Westmarch—one of the novel’s major structural metanarrative devices, but also one of the only written accounts of the Hobbits inside Middle-Earth (274). This resembles Cervantes position on Don QuixoteAs such, Tolkien maintains a Hobbit as his principal narrator as long as the story allows it, even though the specific Hobbit who performs this duty can change—among the four people of that race present in the Fellowship that lives the Journey. For instance, in , but Tolkien differentiates himself by changing that focus constantly. The Fellowship of the Ring, the reader perceives the world and the actions that occur through Frodo, the Ring-Bearer’s eyes. This limited knowledge creates a unique perspective in the reader’s vision of the setting and its inhabitants, producing wonderful narrative effects. As an example, we could take the case of Gandalf’s absence on the day concerted to start Frodo’s Journey. In fact, until the  beginning of Book II we do not discover the reasons of that incident. This ignorance creates an alternative relax and tension on Frodo and his companions—and consequently on the reader. The narrative aftermath is the creation of a strong background explanation for the Company’s favorable fortune on their travel: in spite of the risks suffered, no one dies. This can only be explained through the characters’ ill-informed position about the Wizard’s fate, an issue that ends up enabling them to have the wise fear to stop when they have to, as well as the necessary  Real 4 confidence to move on when it is required. Moreover, Tolkien uses his four hobbits to introduce the reader to all kinds of situations and cultures—through an open-minded and tolerant  perspective to facilitate his presentation of Middle-Earth. In spite of the aforementioned narrative techniques and devices—and as Kirk quotes— Tolkien’s intentions in writing The Lord of the Rings were “to provide a world for the languages and not the reverse. I should have preferred to write in Elvish” (6). Accordingly, his focus on language is clear and it has inspired one of the most productive areas of literary criticism on Tolkien since primordial times. To illustrate this, it is only necessary to provide here a reproduction of Boswell’s account of the figurative language present on The Lord of the RingsProse Verse , divided on prose and verse as follows (195): Synecdoche 2 Personification 22 Assonance 1 Exclamation 21 Simile 1 Alliteration 18 Metonymy 1 Onomatopoeia 17 Litotes 1 Metaphor 16 Onomatopoeia 1 Simile 16 Rhetorical Question 10 Synecdoche 3 This level of specificity and the almost statistical concern about Literature demonstrated, must lead literary critics to ask themselves about the direction in which literary studies are conducted. Obviously, the motivation of this research report is to point out trustworthy results, but not at the cost of studying the author and his work with contemptuous attitude and disrespect—shown  Real 5 in the above models even though the example may seem rare, it seems to be not so rare in Tolkien Literary Criticism nowadays. For instance, so many critics devote their studies to create allegorical interpretations of The Lord of the Rings, defying Tolkien’s own words in his Prologue to the Second Edition when he declares, “As for any inner meaning or ‘message’, it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical” (xxiii). Moreover, one of the arguments most often presented is the inescapability of one’s historical of time. Therefore, allegorical studies tend to equate Sauron with Hitler, Aragorn with Churchill and the One Ring with the Atomic Bomb. Again, researchers quickly forget Tolkien’s words, when he mentions that all the necessary “real” inspiration to write The Lord of the Rings came from his experience during World War I. Furthermore, they easily try to obliterate the own historical records of the novel, published in our times by Tolkien’s third son—formerly editor and map-drawer of his father’s work—and hereupon literary executor, Christopher. In fact, as the factual evidence shows, The Lord of the Rings’ composition began in 1937, after Tolkien’s publisher, Rayner Unwin, asked him to write a sequel to The HobbitOn the other hand, there have been high school teachers who discovered and pointed out . Thus, it is historically impossible for Tolkien to have shaped a character by an historical event that has not happened yet. The Lord of the Rings’ true symbolism and imagery. This has been the result of their inquiry to take advantage of Tolkien’s popularity among youngsters, so to employ the novel as a modern moral-teaching device. Works in this field of expertise are numberless, but amongst the most relevant one can recommend those published by Crossley, Prothero, Roos and Taylor. In brief, their articles—written between the 70’s and the present-day—ultimately converge on various aspects that make the novel so useful for teaching values. For instance, Prothero proclaims Fantasy is the “meaningful context” where life can be understood in its full sense and, since
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