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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The Tolkien Road – Ep74 – Concerning Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring

Concerning Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring

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Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, Greta and I are fresh off of reading “Fellowship of the Ring” and so we thought it would be fun to go back and watch Peter Jackson’s 2001 film adaptation of the book, and then share our thoughts on it with you guys. 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!

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©2013-2016 rfcunha

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The Tolkien Road – Ep. 61 – The Lord of the Rings – B2C2 – The Council of Elrond

Concerning “The Council of Elrond”, Book 2, Chapter 2 of The Lord of the Rings…

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Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, we continue through The Lord of the Rings with Book 2, Chapter 2, “The Council of Elrond.” 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!

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©2013-2016 rfcunha

Topics of discussion…

  • Haiku – 4:30
  • Who’s at the Council? – 15:30
  • The Story of the Ring – 21:30
  • Boromir & Aragorn – 30:00
  • Gandalf’s Account – 37:30
  • Saurman’s Treachery – 47:00
  • What To Do With the Ring? – 58:00

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

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The Tolkien Road – Ep. 30 – The Lord of the Rings – B1C8 – Fog on the Barrow-Downs

Concerning “Fog on the Barrow-Downs”, Book 1, Chapter 8 of The Lord of the Ringsin which the Barrow-wight attacks…
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What is a Barrow-wight? Who are the men of Carn-Dûm? Is there any connection between them and the Black Riders? What’s up with Frodo’s latest mysterious dream? On this episode of The Tolkien Road, we discuss all this and more as we continue our discussion of The Lord of the Rings with Book 1, Chapter 8 of Fellowship, “Fog on the Barrow Downs.” 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!

Topics of discussion include:

  • What is a barrow?
  • What is a barrow-wight?
  • Who are the men of Carn-dûm?
  • Saying goodbye to Goldberry.
  • How this chapter shows the vast ancient history of Middle-earth.
  • Frodo’s dream.
  • And much more!

By the way, to see the Tolkien haiku(s) that didn’t make it onto the podcast, scroll down.

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Haiku submitted but not read on air…

Josh Sosa:

Númenórean
Steel of the West reclaimed
to combat Shadow.

Mary Grace:

A Barrow-wight strikes
The hobbits who became lost
Evil gold has found
Carn Dûm in Angmar
Felled Men of Westernesse
They forged blades Tom found

John:

Bombadil haven
Behind. Cold barrow downs can’t
Swallow Frodo’s heart.
Arcane and ancient
Evil has only to drag
All under with it.
Feel free to add your own haiku for this chapter in the comments below. Keep ’em coming everyone!

The Tolkien Road – Ep. 29 – The Lord of the Rings – B1C7 – In the House of Tom Bombadil

Concerning “In the House of Tom Bombadil”, Book 1, Chapter 7 of The Lord of the Ringsin which we ponder all things Bombadil…
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On this episode, we continue our discussion of The Lord of the Rings with Book 1, Chapter 7 of Fellowship, “In the House of Tom Bombadil“. As the title of this chapter would suggest, our discussion on this episode consists mainly in attempting to answer the question “Who is Tom Bombadil?” We consider both the evidence contained in this chapter as well as the things Tolkien had to say about Bombadil in his letters. It’s an easy question to get lost in, and we have a lot of fun exploring it. 

Topics of discussion include:

  • Who is Tom Bombadil?
  • Who is Goldberry?
  • What does it mean that Tom is “Master?”
  • How has Tom taken a “vow of poverty?”
  • How can Tom have power over Old Man Willow?
  • Why is Tom unaffected by the Ring?
  • Why did Tolkien include Tom in the story even though he admitted he didn’t do much to advance the plot?
  • And much more!

By the way, to see the Tolkien haiku(s) that didn’t make it onto the podcast, scroll down. And here’s the Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Fonstad that we mentioned on air, as well as the wonderful book on Tolkien’s art by Wayne Hammond and Cristina Scull. Also, here’s an instrumental tune by the bluegrass band Nickel Creek called “In the House of Tom Bombadil” for your listening pleasure.

I hope you enjoy our conversation. And of course, if you haven’t already, please leave us a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of The Tolkien Road. Enjoy the show!

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Haiku submitted but not read on air…

Josh Sosa:

Orthanc bears its fangs,
Olorin the captured freed,
aback the Windlord

Mary Grace:

House of Bombadil
What a merry place it is!
Tom and Goldberry

Bombadil is lord
Of trees, flowers and creatures
In the Old Forest

John:

Even when speaking
Tom seems to sing, like rain, like
Distant memories.

Feel free to add your own haiku for this chapter in the comments below. Keep ’em coming everyone!

The Tolkien Road – Ep. 28 – The Lord of the Rings – B1C6 – The Old Forest

Concerning “The Old Forest”, Book 1, Chapter 6 of The Lord of the Ringsin which Frodo and company enter the perilous realm beyond the borders of Buckland…
©2013-2015 rfcunha

On this episode, we continue our discussion of The Lord of the Rings with Book 1, Chapter 6 of Fellowship, “The Old Forest, in which Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin set out on their journey through the Old Forest and encounter a far more dangerous road than they expected. Chapter 6 also introduces the mysterious Tom Bombadil, one of Tolkien’s most enigmatic figures. There’s a lot to talk about, including:

  • Who is Old Man Willow?
  • Why does the Old Forest seem alive?
  • The beauty of the word “Withywindle”
  • Our favorite passages from this chapter
  • The location of Tom Bombadil’s house
  • And much more!

By the way, to see the Tolkien haiku(s) that didn’t make it onto the podcast, scroll down. And here’s the Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Fonstad that we mentioned on air, as well as the wonderful book on Tolkien’s art by Wayne Hammond and Cristina Scull.

I hope you enjoy our conversation. And of course, if you haven’t already, please leave us a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of The Tolkien Road. Enjoy the show!

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Haiku submitted but not read on air…

Josh Sosa:

Slowly creep the roots
Windless forest sways all ways
lo Old Man Willow!

Mary Grace:

Hobbits leave the Shire
The Old Forest leads to Bree
Unknown awaits them

Frodo has the Ring
But Merry leads them onward
Frodo insists so

John:

What ancient anger
Brings the forest to swallow
Hobbits whole and live?

Does the Forest live?
The Withywindle winds through,
The blood in its heart.

Greta:

Entering a spell
Only Sam suspects foul play
A hero again

A tree whisperer
Singing, carrying lilies,
Saving hobbits. Weird.

And here’s the wonderful short ballad-form poem submitted by Trevor the Computational Linguist:

They ride into the forest bleak
Beneath forboding leaves.
Behind the tree-trunks dark things peek,
And winding paths they weave.
The Withywindle bubbles quick
Along it’s Southward track
The Willow stands and plays his trick:
A murderous attack.
Old Bombadil did hap’ thereon,
The tree his voice would heed,
And still the road goes ever on,
Now, from the darkness freed.

Keep ’em coming everyone!