Lectio Tolkiena: Recovered Seeing and Hoarding

I do not say ‘seeing things as they are’ and involve myself with the philosophers, though I might venture to say ‘seeing things as we are (or were) meant to see them’ – as things apart from ourselves.

On Fairy-stories

I’ve written about this quote before, and it continues, in my mind, to be one of Tolkien’s key philosophical statements, a magical little manifesto of sorts. Whereas the literary world has been generally obsessed with “realism” for around 150 years or so, Tolkien takes the modernist idea of the “real” – meaning the thing just as it is in a materialist sense – and transforms it into something new.

the-light-of-the-silmarils-elegaer
“The Light of the Silmarils” © elegaer 2007-2016

“As we are meant to see them” – of course, this begs the question: “Meant by whom or what?” It’s an obviously supernatural statement, for it implies an intelligibility that stands outside of nature, a will to communicate something to us.

Our problem is that we are all taught to be good “realists”. Tolkien’s response to this is almost Chestertonian: “The real is not what you think it is.” The modernist mind tends to assess the “real” as being that which is right in front of me. It’s a way of taking things at “face value”, and thus, as Tolkien says, “appropriating” or “hoarding” them into our other piles of junk, facts conquered and tucked away.

But seeing things as they are meant to be seen – this requires not hoarding, but wonder leading to contemplation, a belief that it’s not just an empty bundle of atoms with some energy thrown in, but a gift imbued with intelligibility, a sacrament of sorts drawing us toward a greater reality.

When we see this way, it becomes harder to simply tuck things away as if we know everything about them. We are liberated from the grave danger of possession and greed, and thus free to understand that things as they are right now, at this moment, are not as they will always be. Indeed, the thing is given to call us to a hopeful realization of the greater, invisible reality.

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That beautiful piece of Tolkien-inspired artwork you see above is from elegaer, my Tolkien Artist-of-the-Month for September 2016. Of course you love it, because it’s awesome, so go check out the rest of their work!

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Tolkien Artist-of-the-Month, September 2016: elegaer

“The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.”

My Tolkien artist of the month for September 2016 is elegaer, who may or may not exist. The thing is, I’ve tried to contact them in every way I can think of about using some of their art for a forthcoming project, but it’s been radio silence. The other thing is that they don’t appear to have posted new art in a few years. So I pray, elegaer, that wherever you are, you are OK! OK? If you are, and you’re reading this, then please contact me.

Anyway, I found elegaer because of this beauty:

Vingilot
And it would appear that heraldry is elegaer‘s thing, for here’s another piece:
devices-designs-noldor-elegaer
Devices and Designs: Noldor
You really need to do yourself a favor and check out the whole gallery of elegaer‘s works, they are all wonderfully detailed and brilliant. And if you do, leave elegaer a comment and tell them I said “Wuzzup! We need to talk…”

I’m happy to be displaying elegaer’s works here all month. You should be too! So check in reguarly.

The Tolkien Road – Ep. 57 – Concerning March 25th: Frodo’s Quest, the Annunciation, and the Crucifixion

Concerning March 25th: Frodo’s Quest, the Annunciation, and the Crucifixion…

Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this special Good Friday episode, we take a moment to consider the place of March 25th, a date of major significance, in Tolkien’s works and philosophy.  We’ll see the role it plays within The Lord of the Rings, as well as how it ties the book to Tolkien’s Catholic faith. 

By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!

the-tolkien-road
©2013-2016 rfcunha

 

Thanks for listening to The Tolkien Road! To see a list of our previous episodes, go here.

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Thoughts on a Silmarillion Film Pt 2: A Majestic Whole


“The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.” – Tolkien


For the first post in this series, I argued that despite his apparent misgivings, Christopher Tolkien must act soon to secure a visual future forThe Silmarillion that is in-line with his father’s overall vision. In this post, I examine the question: Is cinema the best visual medium for adapting The Silmarillion?

silmarillion-cover-cr2

The main problem with a visual adaptation of The Silmarillion is similar to The Silmarillion‘s problem as a novel. To put it simply, The Silmarillion isn’t really one story, the kind of thing we’re used to getting in a novel, but a connected anthology of stories taking place in the same secondary reality.* While one is capable of summarizing the basic thrust of The Silmarillion in a few paragraphs, the beauty of The Silmarillion isn’t in its surprise ending or action-packed plotting, but in its exquisite detail and elegant themes. The best stories, after all, are not piles of text we simply consume and then discard, mere candy bars for the brain. No, the best stories are the ones we revisit time and again because of the subtle notes and layers revealed upon multiple readings, or perhaps even because the savor of them is so delicious. Therefore, when considering a visual adaptation of The Silmarillion, one must ask: HOW? Continue reading “Thoughts on a Silmarillion Film Pt 2: A Majestic Whole”

The Secret Connection Between The Lord of the Rings and the Annunciation


“I know exactly what you mean by the order of Grace; and of course by your references to Our Lady, upon which all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded.” (172)


In a 1953 letter to Father Robert Murray, Tolkien admitted that “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision” (172). Tolkien meant that “the religious element was absorbed in the story and the symbolism” (172). While the story contains no explicit reference to Catholicism or Christianity, it is nevertheless heavily infused with them. It is true that Tolkien abhorred allegory and preferred to write stories without heavy and direct symbolism. Nevertheless, on this Feast of the Annunciation, it is worth noting one very clear and quite intentional reference to Tolkien’s faith at the heart of The Lord of the Rings.

The Annunciation – Henry Osawa Tanner – Public Domain

Continue reading “The Secret Connection Between The Lord of the Rings and the Annunciation”

Talking Tolkien Podcast – Ep. 11 – Leaf By Niggle – Pt 2 – The Story


He could not get rid of his kind heart. ‘I wish I was more strong- minded’ he sometimes said to himself, meaning that he wished other people’s troubles did not make him feel uncomfortable. But for a long time he was not seriously perturbed. ‘At any rate, I shall get this one picture done, my real picture, before I have to go on that wretched journey,’ he used to say. Yet he was beginning to see that he could not put off his start indefinitely. The picture would have to stop just growing and get finished. (257)


©2013-2015 rfcunha

“Leaf By Niggle” is my favorite non-Middle-earth work of Tolkien’s. It’s a beautiful short story, readable in one sitting, and contains no trace of elves, hobbits, or dragons. However, it is completely Tolkienian, and is perhaps one of the clearest views into Tolkien’s philosophical outlook available to us. I will just say this: “Leaf By Niggle” changed my perspective on life and drove me to invest more in my creative desires. Continue reading “Talking Tolkien Podcast – Ep. 11 – Leaf By Niggle – Pt 2 – The Story”

Talking Tolkien Podcast – Ep. 10 – Leaf By Niggle – Pt 1 – Introduction


[“Leaf By Niggle”] arose from my own pre-occupation with The Lord of the Rings, the knowledge that it would be finished in great detail or not at all, and the fear (near certainty) that it would be ‘not at all.’ (257)


©2013-2015 rfcunha

“Leaf By Niggle” is my favorite non-Middle-earth work of Tolkien’s. It’s a beautiful short story, readable in one sitting, and contains no traces of elves, hobbits, or dragons. However, it is completely Tolkienian, and is perhaps one of the clearest views into Tolkien’s philosophical outlook available to us. I will just say this: “Leaf By Niggle” changed my perspective on life and drove me to invest more in my creative desires. Continue reading “Talking Tolkien Podcast – Ep. 10 – Leaf By Niggle – Pt 1 – Introduction”

Talking Tolkien Podcast – Ep. 8 – Interview with Illustrator Evan Palmer


The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.

– Silmarillion xii


©2013-2015 rfcunha
©2013-2015rfcunha

We had a chance to sit down with illustrator and Artist-of-the-Month Evan Palmer of EvanPalmerComics.com and discuss his amazingly cool graphic novel interpretation of Ainulindalë. It was a blast talking to Evan and we learned a ton about his methods and inspirations, so you don’t want to miss it. Enjoy!
Continue reading “Talking Tolkien Podcast – Ep. 8 – Interview with Illustrator Evan Palmer”