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JRR Tolkien
Worse than Robert E Howard 10%
Better than Howard, worse than Edgar Rice Burroughs. 1%
Between Burroughs and L. Frank Baum. 6%
Above Baum, below C.S. Lewis. 19%
Better than alla them! He's as good as Marion Zimmer Bradley! 61%

Votes: 118

 Tolkien, autism, and geeks: peas in a pod.

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Dec 10, 2001
episode I

Making no distinction between inside and outside is one of the hallmarks of medieval literature. Not until the late middle ages and early renaissance phases do we see a clear understanding that people have an inner life. Until then, everyone is an open book, so to speak. What you see them doing and saying is identical with what they think and feel, and in fact medieval authors lack the metaphors and language to articulate thoughts and feelings in the way we are used to. Instead, their characters must externally act out their inner world. It was in essence an autistic society.

This limitation has resulted in some beautifully stylized literature for modern readers to enjoy, but it also gives us insight into the reality of one of the most tragic kinds of mental illness. To a lesser degree, this helps us understand why those who suffer from mild autism--perhaps we should call them the "functionally autistic"-- the so-called "geeks", are so fascinated by medieval writings and their settings, and in particular have a love for that most autistic of modern authors, J.R.R. Tolkien.


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Tolkien is well-known as the author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it is popularly understood that he was a competent scholar of some kind. In fact, this popular perception is close to the truth, as Tolkien was a top medievalist, whose translation of such vital works as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight were accepted as standards for decades. What is interesting in this is the reason why Tolkien's status as the author of the definitive Gawain text was stripped away, to be surpassed by such poet-scholars as Burton Raffel. Raffel himself, in his own, as it were, "heroic yelp" prefacing his Gawain tells us exactly what is so wrong with Tolkien:
    ...[Tolkein, et. al.] have concentrated much more on the arcane trade of editing than they have on the much simpler and more direct occupation of understanding, of reading the poem as the poet tried to have us read it. I do not mean to be ungrageful, or bite the hand that feeds me, but I'm afraid John Spiers is (for a change) right when he groans that the Tolkien/Gordon/Davis text "merely slavishly reproduces the deficiencies, confusions, and inconsistencies of the copyist's spelling in the Cotton Nero IX manuscript." He is right too when he attacks the books lengthy, mostly irrelavent notes... It is no defense of Tolkien, Gordon, and Davis, but most literary criticism suffers from just their kind of "lengthy, mostly irrelavent" insensitivity to the poem as a poem. [1]
Raffel, after declaring this challenge, proceeds to slay the Tolkien beast in classic knightly style, giving us a version of Gawain worthy of the original's poetic strength and emotional power. In particular, Raffel reveals the original work's humor and it's sexuality, two things that Tolkien seems to fail completely to sense or to communicate.

In Tolkien's creative fiction, the lack of jokes and sex is not in any way due to his use of medieval motifs and settings. Recall that Victorianism is a 19th century phenomenon, and Puritanism goes back only to the 16th century. The writings of the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries are positively florid with physical passion, emotional torrents (told in external symbols to be sure) and even sexual violence. The medieval sense of irony too was keen, and humor is everywhere in these stories, from the most subtle social critiques to a full measure of the most juvenile bathroom humor.

Tolkien, however, does not go there. When he isn't anesthetizing it in his translations, he is fully expurgating all sex, romance, bodily functions and humor from his fiction. Beyond this, he has written seemingly endless tomes populated by some of the flattest characters ever seen in serious 20th century writing. While the medieval originals made use of stock characters to fill many roles, the protagonists were typically quite rich, again, albeit with little or nothing hidden on the inside. What you see is what you get, but what we see in such authors as Wolfram is far more human than the emotionally stunted Tolkien.

If Tolkein's translations were doing such violence to the literature he modernized for other scholars, why did they rely on him at all then? It is important to realize here what the craft of textual preparation and translation was prior to the wide availability of computers. It was a wide open field for anyone to enter for many years, due to the mind-numbing tediousness of finding and judging textual variations in the available manuscripts, and in the rote mental chores of analyzing the original meanings of the language for translation into a more modern English. When someone like Tolkien came along, who could through his own extraordinary mental gifts produce a large quantity of texts in translation, few were able to challenge him and go and do a better job. Most who had the ability were, like Tolkien, hobbled by the same near-autistic inability to grasp the full range of human emotion and to read and write poetry as we would hope a translator could do.

The irony, of course, is that the tool given us by other functionally autistic geeks in another field, computers, changed all that. Now, textual analysis can be done at speeds unimaginable to dusty bookworm like Tolkien. Now, those whose minds encompass our experiences, whose lives hold a complete range of human joys and sorrows, and whose pens (or keyboards) can write words that can do justice to the English poetic tradition are able to enter the field and give us a true understanding of these brilliant works. Compare the warm and funny John Gardner to the cold and eunuch-like J.R.R. Tolkien to see the difference.

It is a difference not everyone is capable of appreciating, as testified by the ongoing popularity of Tolkien's fiction, even as his scholarly work grows ever more obscure. Where geeks squirm in their seats when reading the uproarious anus-kissing scene in Geoffrey Chaucer's Miller's Tale, or flinch at the rape scene in Chrètien de Troyes' Lancelot story the The Knight of the Cart, they sail smoothly through the passionless, sexless, joyless world of The Hobbit and the other Middle Earth tales, lingering over the tedious details of a character's costume and arms, drawing stark lines between good and evil that are hardly evident in real medieval romance, and reveling in the triumph of the child-like Hobbit mind over the dark complexities of the Tolkien villains.

The literature of the modern world's functional autistics is simplistic and two-dimensional, but it is nonetheless important, because these modern-day village idiots have been put to work building and maintaining the information systems that we take to be vital to our civilization. Dealing with them and their machines is a challenge we all must face, and we can better face it armed with understanding. What do these cute stories say about those who love them? Obsess over them, in fact. How does this obsession make itself known in the workings of modern technology?

This series will explore the role of functional autism in modern literature and in modern technologists. It will also take a detailed look at what it means to be functionally autistic, and how that is expressed through medievalist literature. If you are qualified to be reading Adequacy, I hope you'll stay around for the next installment.

Peace and joy to everyone in this season of the Christians' most expansive and extroverted holiday!

To be continued.

[1] Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Newly translated and with an introduction by Burton Raffel. Mentor, New York. 1970.


Nice poll. (5.00 / 2) (#4)
by RobotSlave on Mon Dec 10th, 2001 at 07:06:51 PM PST
if we're going to look at English lit through the lens of its authors' emotional deficiencies (is this school of criticism still called "Freudian?"), I think I'll take Tolkein's autism over whatever was eating Burroughs and Howard. As a stylist, though, I'd say Tolkein rates the worst of the lot, excepting Bradley.

© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.

the funny part (5.00 / 2) (#5)
by nathan on Mon Dec 10th, 2001 at 07:37:09 PM PST
Is when "Bradley" gets to be called by her last name.

"Oh, yes, I was listening to the satirical stylings of that scamp Mr. Mathers."

"My taste runs to Ms. Ciccone."

"Oh, how lovely! Do you enjoy art? This is an original Kinkade reproduction!"

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

An old trick. (none / 0) (#41)
by RobotSlave on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 11:28:31 AM PST
The New York Times used to be infamous for this sort of thing.

The music critic who reviewed Bat Out of Hell, without ever referring to the artist as anything other than "Mr. Loaf," ought to be given a medal.

© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.

priorities (5.00 / 1) (#6)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Dec 10th, 2001 at 07:49:30 PM PST
You silly idiot!
I take it willingly to happily criticize empty and useless things like religion, society, underground culture, the States - that's just useless crap anyway...
But how do yuo <STRONG>DARE</STRONG> criticize Literature ! And the capital 'L' is not a mistake, just an emphasis on what a master writer and genius like Tolkien produced, compared to the horrid, meaningless, superficial and lifeless 'literature' you seem to appreciate...

OK, you do not have even the simplest forms of aesthetic and common sense needed to appreciate one of the XXth century fantasy masterpieces ? I pity you, but this doesn't allow you to write such offending and disgusting articles. Couldn't you please just stroll in a dark, misty corner and stay there - at least - forever ?

fwyzard :-)

You all see why we need a gated community? (4.00 / 2) (#9)
by elenchos on Mon Dec 10th, 2001 at 08:46:51 PM PST
This sort of comment is exactly the reason why I keep saying we need to permanently block all non-editors from either reading or posting at the Adequacy. This is a serious--even grave--discussion site, where only complete and well-documented arguments should be allowed. Instead we have to put up with this sort of noise comment, which makes bald criticisms and blanket generalizations yet offers no support or logical reasoning to support itself.

I realize that any defense of JRR Tolkien is virtually impossible to make using facts or logic, but that is exactly the reason we shouldn't allow posts like this.

Whose idea was it to allow "Anonymous Readers" to post, anyway?

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

While I agree in theory, (4.00 / 2) (#14)
by Thon on Mon Dec 10th, 2001 at 10:29:14 PM PST
keeping geeks out of an internet site is about as easy as keeping herpes out of a sorority. You really have to treat each geek individually. However, their crafty nature has allowed them to take shelter behind the Anonymous Reader tag so that they can spew their autistic propaganda without fear of being further ostrasized.

"I undrestand"

Ahem... (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 03:11:18 AM PST
Shouldn't that be 'ostracized'?

Oh well. Either way it's a bastardization of 'ostrakos'.

In this site, I have also apparently stumbled upon a new way to think.

Ahh, elenchos... (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 04:33:46 AM PST
Always the most ham-handed of all the editors. Can we set up some sort of donation fund to send him to a first-year rhetoric class?

First, there is this entire "functionally autistic" theme, which is a rather poorly done red herring. Oh, I'm sure he will "explore the role of functional autism in modern literature and in modern technologists" soon. Unless someone makes him take his lithium. Really, why would you title an article with a topic that you aren't even going to deal with?

Then there is his poor comprehension of middle english literature. Like that of modern times, it had a wide range of sensibilities. "The Miller's Tale" is really meant to be appreciated on two levels--one laughing at the crude humor, the other laughing at the Miller's crude attempts to enrage the carpenter. Sadly, I think elenchos is too apt to dive into the fray...

That admitededly ad hominem attatck aside, I challange elenchos to find one sexual or ribald line in any edition of "The Battle of Badon". "The Pearl" is also notably lacking in sexual tension. Admittedly, Tolkien limited himself by sticking to drier translations, but really, this entire article is so devoid of either logic or humor that it should be deleted wholesale in embarrasment.

Perhaps elenchos' editorship should be revoked. (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 06:19:09 PM PST
He has proven himself compleatly inadequate, the people at alt.fairs.renaissance ripped him to pieces within seconds of him promoting this article, for God's sake. He also lacks even a basic liberal education, going to a high-priced university will do you nothing if you spend your time in a drunken stupor and bribe the administration to finally get your degree after six years.

I don't know what was going through the heads of the real editors when they decided to promote elenchos into their exclusive club. It's time they reconsider their mistake, elenchos has only made look like an ignorant mob of geek pseudointellectuals. No wonder Adequacy has such a bad reputation on most university campuses.

Aren't we being a little transparent? (none / 0) (#44)
by RobotSlave on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 07:58:46 PM PST
So you're mad because someone edited your comment. Big deal. Happens to everyone. You are now part of the adequacy. Suck it up.

This business of posting replies to your own comments in an attempt to make people think that you are legion is just completely pathetic.

© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.

If only (none / 0) (#61)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 13th, 2001 at 06:33:50 AM PST
So you're mad because someone edited your comment.

Editing a comment is the decent thing to do. However, what is unacceptable is to support enchelos. It should be quite clear by now that Adequacy sports a number of excellently informed 'geek' story writers, such as dmg, or seventypercent, and that elenchos's trite offerings are no longer required. Please make him write about 'real world' things (you know - like politics, economics, philosophy, relationships, religion... anything but another tepid kurodot rant) or have him shot. Please, won't somebody think of the children?

Adequacy has a reputation on campuses? (none / 0) (#49)
by Robert Reginald Rodriguez on Wed Dec 12th, 2001 at 01:04:57 AM PST
Which ones? I ask, because I can't imagine how you could have spoken to enough professors of different institutions to have accurately gauged the breadth and nature of Adequacy's reputation. Was the site featured in a recent issue of Lingua Franca, perhaps?

thought for elenchos (none / 0) (#50)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Dec 12th, 2001 at 05:36:34 AM PST
Perhaps you should cease spamming Usenet to generate hits for your articles.

You risk of having someone get annoyed enough to contact your ISP and ask them to drop you. (many ISP's have policies against spamming)

Plus its just the tackiest and most unsophisticated form of marketing ever invented.

Makes you look like a script kiddie with a mission,*G* as opposed to a high end intellectual type.

Re: Tea at the elitist pseudo-intellectual club (none / 0) (#31)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 05:28:47 AM PST
>>> This sort of comment is exactly the reason why I keep saying we need to permanently block all non-editors from either reading or posting at the Adequacy. <<<

Nonsense. When you can blithely remove and edit postings which dare disagree with you who needs a lock on the front door?

>>> This is a serious--even grave--discussion site, where only complete and well-documented arguments should be allowed. <<<

Hmmmm, I'll have to look around at something other than this thread to see if there are any postings here which actually qualify.

>>> Instead we have to put up with this sort of noise comment, which makes bald criticisms and blanket generalizations yet offers no support or logical reasoning to support itself. <<<

True... but don't be too hard on yourself. You may not be able to support your arguments in the face of the actual facts, but at least you gave it the old 'college try'. (Note for those who feel that sublety in literature is wasted: Observe the implied reference to that vital 'defecation' we just don't get enough of.)

- Conrad Dunkerson
"Even the Christmas vacation will be darkened by New Zealand scripts..." JRR Tolkien

why replies are neccesary & yer arguments wron (none / 0) (#45)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 08:29:45 PM PST
to begin with, open replying and criticsim to the articles on this site, as well as any site of similar type, is neccesary and advantageous because, while you are correct in your assesment of statements made more out blind passion, pigheadedness, and opinions held without the backing of logic, they are an acceptable price (no matter how numerous and how stupid they may be) for the unrestricted INTELLIGENT criticism from any intrested source that happens upon the article, and not just people of your like mindset, who would probably be the only ones you would let past your proposed gate on the site. besides, the stupid, uninformed replies kinda go with the stupid, uninformed articles that make up a sizeable portion of your content.
now as for your arguement, as best as i can tell, you seem to be trying to state some explanation for the popularity of fantasty authors (particulary tolkien (did i spell particualry right, me hate that word...)) among a group of people you label 'geeks'. to begin with you give no actual evidence that these 'geeks' show noteable intrest in such literature. you simply state it in such a way as if it were common, uncontested knowledge, which given the explosian of popularity of tolkiens work a few decades or so ago, an explosian which took no account of such a social\cultural designation as 'geek', it is not.
secondly your reason behind why said geeks like tolkien is that literature such as his (tolkien) fetures characters that lack the ability to seperate their thoughts and feelings from their physical state, hence they cannot help but act out their most pure and private emotions and motives out in the open. you do not identify any specific examples of this observation, again stating it as if it were common known and uncontested. you identify said behavior as autistic. hence your definition of autistic behavior is one who cannot seperate reality from from his thoughts and feelings. you state that the 'geeks' are all functionally and/or mildly autistic.
may i say here that from my expieriance, autism is a fairly uncommon mental condition, while a geek is a designation for a person, often derogatroy, who shares some of the intrests of other sterotypical groups such as dorks and nerds, that is they are the kids who get beaten by bullies, have the worst acne, dont get dates, are social outcasts, and hence tend to spend most of their time with computers, watching too much tv, etc.. the veracity of this sterotype is irrelevent, my point is that your very definition is in question.
but lets ignore that mislabeling, and assume we are just talking about autistics (especially mild/functional autistics), and that you merely called them geeks by mistake. well then, in that case your definition of autistic is wrong, dumbass. you talk about carefull research and critical integrity, but yet you obviously didnt check in a dictionary or you would have seen the same definions i found on and merriam-webster online, those being
au·tism (ôtzm)
A psychiatric disorder of childhood characterized by marked deficits in communication and social interaction, preoccupation with fantasy, language impairment, and abnormal behavior, such as repetitive acts and excessive attachment to certain objects. It is usually associated with intellectual impairment.
Main Entry: au·tism
Pronunciation: 'o-"ti-z&m
Function: noun
Date: 1912
1 : absorption in self-centered subjective mental activity (as daydreams, fantasies, delusions, and hallucinations) usually accompanied by marked withdrawal from reality
2 : a mental disorder originating in infancy that is characterized by self-absorption, inability to interact socially, repetitive behavior, and language dysfunction (as echolalia)
as you can see, not only do the definitions not say 'one who cannot seperate his thoughts and emotions from his physical interaction with the world and reality in general', they say something to the effect that these people wouldnt be interacting with the world very much at all, they would be withdrawn from it. hence your argument has no basis whatsoever, as your starting propositions, the statements that when considered should lead to the conclusion you have proposed, are either unbacked or flat out wrong. which is probably the real reason you dont want unrestricted posting on the site, ISNT IT???

you can't even analyse a dictionary, don't try lit (2.50 / 2) (#59)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 13th, 2001 at 01:41:01 AM PST

Well, I am kinda offended... (none / 0) (#56)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Dec 12th, 2001 at 08:39:38 PM PST
Check my reply as "Sutut" on alt.fantasy.conan<br><br>

Am I less of a human being because I simply thought the "Ass Kissing" joke in Cantebury tales was dumb?<br><br>

I don't like Tolkien that much, but I do like one of his contemporaries, Lord Dunsany a lot. If it were up to me, there would be movies made from works like "The Sword of Welleran" and such.<br><br>

Frankly, I don't get how you think fantasy fiction is two-dimensional. Besides Dunsany, check into guys like Robert E. Howard, or Clark Ashton Smith.<br><br>

As far as the "Functional Autistic" goes, I heard Einstien routinely forgot where he lived. Also, Bobby Fischer has recently spoke out in FAVOR of the 9/11 attacks. It doesn't make me dislike Einstien, though I blame him for the Atom bomb's invention as much as Oppenheimer, nor do I respect Fischer's chess skills less.

I hope you didn't get that Einstein thing from... (none / 0) (#57)
by elenchos on Wed Dec 12th, 2001 at 10:43:22 PM PST
...Robert A. Heinlien. That's the last (and only) place I've seen someone trying to put the blame for the atomic bomb on him of all people. Please do not form historical opinions based on what a fictional character in a pulp novel says. Real life is way more sublte and complex.

Anyway, you are defending against a phantom.

I don't really think anyone should dig up Tolkien and abuse his corpse. Yes, he wrote some bad books and many people read them and enjoyed them. There's no harm in that. And there is no harm in liking bad books. Cheap entertainment is fun and we all enjoy it a little.

It isn't even a crime to argue that fantasy fiction is not two-dimensional. Go ahead and say that. I just think you have a tough case to make, that's all. Someone tried to show Tolkien's artistry by posting some of his poetry. Yes, it was proven that Tolkien wrote poetry. But no, nobody was convinced that Tolkien was a good poet. If anything, the poor man's reputation suffered another wound at the hands of his loyal fan.

So give it a shot, if you must, but whether you want to take the case of Howard or Dunsany or whomever, you are going to really have to put together some impressive evidence if you want to drag any of this fiction out of the fantasy genre ghetto and into the neighborhood of serious literature. Best of luck.

What I'm interested in is the psychology of those who write this kind of stuff so consistently. And the psychology of those who read it to the exclusion of anything of real substance, and further, why are such people so over-represented in the technology field? We have people with limited social skills and an undeveloped emotional life who are engrossed in stories where humanity is flattened into a much less challenging characature of itself. What is going on here? What are the specific mechanisms behind this kind of genre fiction that make it so comfortable for this type of person?

I don't say that these people should be criminlized, or even ridiculed. I simply remark on their existence, and attempt to describe them truthfully. I seek to understand them.

Sorry that I offend you, but the demands of truthfulness leave me no choice. Obviously, this kind of thing cannot be discussed at a Conan fan usenet group. That is why, the web's most controversial news and discussion site, is here. That is why I am at, to do this important investigation.

And you? Thanks for posting here, but remember: just because you are offended, that is no reason to try to silence the site. Please do not DoS the Thank you.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

An article every Tolkien worshipper should read (5.00 / 3) (#8)
by moriveth on Mon Dec 10th, 2001 at 08:36:42 PM PST
Thank you for challenging the nauseating worship of that work of astounding banality, the Lord of the Rings. As anyone who has read Tolkien's "poetry" (or even his prose) can attest, Tolkien was not a genius: he was a tin-eared hack.

Far from being a work of literary genius, discriminating fantasy readers recognize that Tolkien was a dead end, a mere sideshow of the great tradition defined by true masters such as Lord Dunsany, Fritz Leiber, and Terry Goodkind. It is something of a tragedy that it is Tolkien's aggressively mediocre tomes that have instead made it to the silver screen.

How's the lineup? (none / 0) (#13)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Dec 10th, 2001 at 10:27:32 PM PST
Did you write that from your laptop, waiting in line for tickets to the Lord Of The Rings? Is it cold out tonite?

Terry Goodkind? Please. He's crap. (none / 0) (#27)
by Calenth on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 03:15:07 AM PST
Lord Dunsany, I'll grant. Fritz Leiber has some strengths. but. . .geesh . .Terry Goodkind ? Terry Goodkind didn't even steal from great writers -- his books are a loose crib-sheet from Lucas and Robert Jordan. His work is abysmally poor, unoriginal,and contains almost nothing of creative merit.

stop living in the past (5.00 / 1) (#55)
by philipm on Wed Dec 12th, 2001 at 04:21:08 PM PST
Please stop living in the past. I have no idea who this Dunsany is, but lord? LORD???????????
Leiber is another dry scribbler, not nearly as horrible as tolkien, but still barely able to string two words together.
Terry, on the other hand, really is a genius. His passionate violence tinged sexuality and sexually charged violence (ummmm mord sith.... drool...) is a breakthgrough in the good-evil obsessed wall of label spouting retards.
One is unbearably grateful that you are practically the only person that can not appreciate terry.


Gor (none / 0) (#131)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 07:19:02 AM PST
I think Gor is even better for mind-numbing titillation.

Vulgar [...] (5.00 / 1) (#12)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Dec 10th, 2001 at 09:46:09 PM PST
[editor's note by elenchos: The original inflammatory language of this post was removed for improved readability. The substance of the post is unchanged.]

So much for the supposed [...] policy of this site. The above article could hardly be called anything [...] - especially when the author then went out to various Tolkien fan sites to post links to it while explaining that;

"It is at, which is a specialist discussion site, meaning that most "Tolkien fans" are not qualified to post comments in the discussion, due to the level of experience and education required."

[...] . That said, it is also quite spectacularly inaccurate in a number of places;

>>> Tolkien is well-known as the author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it is popularly understood that he was a competent scholar of some kind. In fact, this popular perception is close to the truth, as Tolkien was a top medievalist, whose translation of such vital works as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight were accepted as standards for decades. <<< <P> Whatever one thinks of Tolkien's 'style' of literary analysis the claim that it is merely "close to the truth" that he was a "competent scholar of some kind" is simply pretentious. He was an Oxford professor of great experience who was a noted scholar during and after his lifetime. Engage in all the revisionist interpretation you like (and there is a great deal here indeed), but try not to be condescending about falsities in the process.

>>> In Tolkien's creative fiction, the lack of jokes and sex is not in any way due to his use of medieval motifs and settings. <<< <P> While Tolkien certainly did not concentrate on sexuality in his stories the charge that there was some lack of jokes betrays that the writer has either not read the stories or at some point has had their sense of humor surgically removed. The Hobbit is after all, largely a comedy... and in the case of 'Farmer Giles of Ham' there is no 'largely' about it. The entire piece is plainly comedic.

>>> Tolkien, however, does not go there. When he isn't anesthetizing it in his translations, he is fully expurgating all sex, romance, bodily functions and humor from his fiction. <<< <P> Somehow I've never quite felt the lack of bodily functions in ANY of the works I've read... though now that it is mentioned that DOES seem to be an aspect distressingly absent in a great many texts. By all means then - let us have more defecation. (Oi!)

As to romance... do the names of Eowyn and Faramir mean anything to you? Beren and Luthien? Tolkien has not 'expurgated romance' by any reasonable definition of the term. He was quite thoroughly a romantic thinker and writer - to the extent that the names 'Beren' and 'Luthien' appear on the tombstones of himself and his wife.

Again, an overt hostility to Tolkien's work seems to be leading to the establishment of 'facts' which are nothing of the kind. If Tolkien is so incapable of humor where then did 'Farmer Giles' come from? Or hadn't you read it? Or must we have the rape and "anus-kissing" you extolled so eloquently in order for it to qualify as 'humor'?

>>> If Tolkein's translations were doing such violence to the literature he modernized for other scholars, why did they rely on him at all then? It is important to realize here what the craft of textual preparation and translation was prior to the wide availability of computers. It was a wide open field for anyone to enter for many years, due to the mind-numbing tediousness of finding and judging textual variations in the available manuscripts, and in the rote mental chores of analyzing the original meanings of the language for translation into a more modern English. When someone like Tolkien came along, who could through his own extraordinary mental gifts produce a large quantity of texts in translation, few were able to challenge him and go and do a better job. <<< <P> Ye gods! Tolkien was INFAMOUS for his inability to stick to and finish a project. He was originally scheduled to do a major part of the work on the Jerusalem Bible, but wound up completing only Jonah. Lord of the Rings itself took him more than 17 YEARS to write. His primary the text, 'The Silmarillion', was begun earlier and never completed at all. The idea that Tolkien achieved prominence as a scholar through the production of vast quantities of dreck is absurd on its face. He was NOT remotely workmanlike or prolific in his studies, instead going over things in exacting and repetitious detail... until distracted onto some other long overdue project. Honestly, where are you getting this stuff?

>>> Most who had the ability were, like Tolkien, hobbled by the same near-autistic inability to grasp the full range of human emotion and to read and write poetry as we would hope a translator could do. <<< <P> Need I even bother to point out that Tolkien wrote extensive amounts of poetry?

There was a man who dwelt alone,
as day and night went past
he sat as still as carven stone,
and yet no shadow cast.
The white owls perched upon his head
beneath the winter moon;
they wiped their beaks and thought him dead
under the stars of June.

There came a lady clad in grey
in the twilight shining:
one moment she would stand and stay,
her hair with flowers entwining.
He woke, as he had sprung of stone,
and broke the spell that bound him;
he clasped her fast, both flesh and bone,
and wrapped her shadow round him.

There never more she walks her ways
by sun or moon or star;
she dwells below where neither days
nor any nights there are.
But once a year when caverns yawn
and hidden things awake,
they dance together then till dawn
and a single shadow make.

-Shadow Bride, JRR Tolkien ('emotionless autistic geek with an aversion to poetry, sex and romance')

Please forgive me for finding you absurd.

- Conrad Dunkerson ('inadequate Tolkien reader')

The poem really speaks for itself, doesn't it? (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by elenchos on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 12:29:52 AM PST
I would challenge you to provide support for your statement that I don't give Tolkien enough credit as a scholar. Yes he was an Oxford prof. I called him a "top medievalist". Nonetheless, he is not in the same league as Raffel, nor John Gardner, nor any of the host of world-class poet-translators of the 20th century, like WS Merwin or Robert Pinsky. Tolkien's translations were serviceable back when that was all we had, but he has been surpassed by artists who have much more to offer than a typical Oxford professor with a knack for languages.

Or can you provide me with the names serious, current, peer-reviewed work that still rely on Tolkien? I don't mean fanzines.

You are a little anachronistic in your assertion that Tolkien worked slowly, probably because you have a computer-age vision of how his work proceeded. You could not simply search a whole book for a word, and then repeat the same search in another version of that text and compare them in context by pressing the "search" key. Textual analysis meant going through line by line, with just your own eyes. It did take years and Tolkien's output was exceptional. But ever since computers appeared on university campuses in the 50's and 60's, Tolkien's handful of translations did start to look like the work of a plodder. Anachronism abounds it seems.

That he became sidetracked and left unfinished projects lying about while he chased odd leads is typical geek behavior. Compare the infamous Donald Knuth TeX episode, for example.

Tolkein's fear of sex and passion is undeniable. His medieval models had remarkable amounts of vulgarity by our standards. His version of medievalism draws attention to this by its conspicuous absence. Compare that with the original stories' sometimes tedious descriptions of the details of armor and clothing that the characters wore. Tolkien liked that aspect of medieval writing, and kept it. He even expanded on it, ad nausauem. But he didn't like the fart jokes and the fornication, so his version of the medieval world washes all that away. The problem is that all that vulgarity in the original texts also contained some meaning, as skilled poet-translators have demonstrated, to Tolkien's shame.

So he took stories written for an audience that spent their lives in single-room houses where every conceivable human activity took place in the physical presence of entire extended families, and Victorianized them because he wasn't comfortable with that aspect of the medieval period. In many ways, Tolkien was more like Tennyson or Dante Gabriel Rossetti than Malory or the Gawain Poet.

Speaking of poetry, what can we make of the thing with the lady clad in gray in the twilight shining? Nice regular rhyme scheme, I'll say that. Does it really make you think the poet has much experience with the textures of human passion? It seems to cast a love story far in the past, and put the man an woman in great distance from each other. The woman is quite a mystery to him, it seems. She appears out of nowhere, and does something magical, we guess. The result is that the isolated man experiences something strange and wonderful, but how much is the poet really saying about it? How much can he say? Does this couple have sex, for example? Is that what Tolkien is hinting at? Maybe.

I'd call it pretty vague and mushy poetry, overall. Compare, for example a Tolkien near-contemporary like Theodore Roethke: "I knew a woman, lovely in her bones/ When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;/ Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:/ the shapes a bright container can contain!" Tolkien just lacks the mastery of expression that even a middle-grade poet like Roethke has.

And ask yourself how someone who living in the 20th century and inheriting the dozen centuries of English literature that Tolkien had at his disposal could have so little wisdom to offer. Tolkien understood as much about love as a schoolboy. Compare him with a man that knew a thing or two, and could write it well, like Philip Larkin in "Talking in Bed", 1964.:

Talking in bed ought to be easiest,
Lying together there goes back so far,
An emblem of two people being honest.

Yet more and more time passes silently.
Outside, the wind's incomplete unrest
Builds and disperses clouds about the sky,

And dark towns heap up on the horizon.
None of this cares for us. Nothing shows why
At this unique distance from isolation

It becomes still more difficult to find
Words at once true and kind,
Or not untrue and not unkind.

I'm being as kind as I can towards Tolkien, but it is only so far that one can stretch the truth.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

serious, peer-reviewed work (none / 0) (#24)
by Calenth on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 02:15:03 AM PST
Do you mean just his translations, or his analysis? Tolkien's Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics remains the single, seminal, primary point from which all later analysis of Beowulf, and even re-interpretations and restructurings like John Gardner's Grendel, draw their ultimate inspiration. So, yes, that's an obvious example of one of Tolkien's scholarly works that still influences peer-reviewed, current analysis of old english literature.

Literary criticism (none / 0) (#25)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 02:49:59 AM PST
An interesting article.

Surely all literary criticism becomes outdated eventually? This happens in all fields and in all subjects as new research is done and replaces the old school of thought. Is it therefore right to criticise Tolkien because what was commonly believed in the 50s and 60s is no longer valid? For his era Tolkien was an eminent scholar; I notice Beowulf was cited below - in the article you concentrate on Gawain and avoid the subject of Beowulf - understandable if you're comparing two translations of Gawain, but not if you're arguing that Tolkien is outdated and 'autistic'.

I do however object to the fact that you called 'all' Tolkien fans 'autistic geeks'. As well as being a keen lover of Tolkien, I'm currently in my final year studying French at Oxford where I'm always busy. Tolkien is at once an escape from academic life and a link to it; the languages he created and the history he touched upon in his own mythology show clear links to the culture surrounding the medieval texts I've studied.

Finally, Tolkien may have avoided the kind of romance we are used to today, but to say that his texts are devoid of romance is clearly misled. Take the tale of Aragorn and Arwen in 'The Lord of the Rings', for example. A king in exile in love with an immortal woman who cannot marry him until he regains his crown and must then give up her immortality for love of him - is this not romantic in all the pure sense of the word? Why is this less romantic than the tale of Romeo and Juliet, or the doomed affair of Tristan and Isolde? Do we need explicit sex in a book? It certainly would not 'work' in the context of the tale. In addition, LOTR deals with unrequited love, and the simple love found through companionship (Faramir and Eowyn). LOTR is a romance in the good old heroic sense of the word. It brings me and many other people pleasure and I think denegrating us to the status of 'geeks' is at the least a narrow-minded view.

Joanne Harris.

stop calling bullshit romance (none / 0) (#43)
by philipm on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 07:31:39 PM PST
tolkien was a small minded detail obsessed freak who has been linized by people to nervous and withdrawn to read more than one book. Onyone who has read and science fiction and fantasy in the last 15 years has no problems with burning tolkien's books and repeatedly running over him with a car.

Have you ever actually had any romance in your life? I hope you are not using this passionless drivel for a guide.


You are completely correct. (none / 0) (#47)
by tkatchev on Wed Dec 12th, 2001 at 12:26:58 AM PST
Tolkien's works are neither science-fiction nor fantasy, and they are in no way related. Tolkien is strictly a writer of Christian apoligia; some may not agree with the methods he uses and the issues he brings up, but the prodominately Catholic nature of his writings is obvious[1]. Tolkien is much closer in style and content to C.S. Lewis -- surely you don't claim that "Cronicles of Narnia" are a sci-fi series?!

In fact, science fiction necessarily implies atheism and sexual perversity on the part of the writer. In fact, those two issues are probably the two most important distinguishing characteristics of sci-fi as a genre. Since Tolkien was neither an atheist nor a pervert, you cannot seriously claim that he wrote sci-fi or fantasy.

[1] It's a sad state we are in, when people cannot even recognize Catholic literature when they read it.

Peace and much love...

Tolkien's religion (none / 0) (#62)
by frosty on Thu Dec 13th, 2001 at 11:10:29 AM PST
Yes Tolkien was a Catholic, yes he wrote his books from that framework, and yes his books are consistent with "christian" thinking. However, these books should not be compared to the works of C.S. Lewis in style. Lewis's work was Christian allegory, written to primarily communicate religious concepts. Tolkien's work, on the other hand, while consistent w/ Catholic ideas, was not written to communicate similar ideas.

Personally I have a hard time finding any strong and consistent allegories in his Trilogy. There is Good vs. Evil, the corruption of Power, etc. However, the presence of Catholic/Christian themes does not make a book "catholic" per se. The books are definately influenced by Tolkien's religious beliefs, but to compare his style with thatof Lewis is quite a stretch.

"Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger" -J.R.R. Tolkien

History lesson. (none / 0) (#65)
by tkatchev on Thu Dec 13th, 2001 at 02:14:25 PM PST
C.S.Lewis converted to Christianity solely by the urging of Tolkien. For all intents and purposes, Lewis is Tolkien's spiritual "child" -- for a large of his life, Lewis was a dedicated agnostic; however, at one point his conversations with Tolkien caused Lewis to convert to Christianity.

As for Christian themes and ideas, they are on every page of LOTR. Just because Tolkien doesn't beat you over the head with them, and you are too dense to see them, doesn't mean that they are not there. I won't list these things here -- if you really want a thorough analysis, pick anything from the book, and I'll do my best to explain the Christian significance of it.

However, I'll just leave you one tidbit to think about: compare the ascendance of Frodo to Mt. Doom and the last days of Christ's life. Again, Tolkien didn't write an allegory or a retelling, he simply rephrased pre-Christian salvation prophesies in an Anglo-Saxon manner; however, to deny the Christian nature of that subplot is completely ludicrous.

Peace and much love...

pervert? (none / 0) (#69)
by philipm on Thu Dec 13th, 2001 at 05:39:24 PM PST
Well, I have doubts about your ridiculous claim that Tolkien was not a pervert, but why do you think that atheism and perversion are necessary ingredients to writing science fiction? And what about fantasy, do you lump that in the same category?


Passionless drivel? (none / 0) (#52)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Dec 12th, 2001 at 02:11:20 PM PST
Of course it's not a guide - did I say it was? Did I say I read just Tolkien? And are you seriously trying to suggest that more recent sci-fi and fantasy are of a higher quality than Tolkien's works? Some of it is equal, admitted. A lot of it is excellent. But it's also completely different to Tolkien.

I am neither nervous nor withdrawn. I think burning ANY book is a crime - though some books should be locked away where nobody can read them. And may I suggest that if you think Tolkien's romance is passionless, you read the tale Of Beren and Lúthien in The Silmarillion. It might be couched in very formal language, but it tells of a love transcending barriers. It's not a guide for anyone and least of all me, but it is a lyrical, beautiful piece of writing and if I'm reading romance (which is innately fiction - the French word 'roman' which means in today's language 'novel' has developed from a 12th century word, when it meant the tale of an imaginary or idealised hero) it's a nice dream world to escape into. If I want realism I'll read a modern author.


Fiction is not an excuse... (none / 0) (#53)
by elenchos on Wed Dec 12th, 2001 at 03:19:31 PM PST
...for writing crap. No one buys this standard Tolkien defense, that he is writing "fantasy" or "romance" or whatever label you want, and therefore we can't criticize his glaring defects. Yes, everyone knows it is not realism. But that in no way means that dull, shallow, tedious, infantile stories can be called serious literature just because it is covered by that "fiction" label.

Yes there is some lyricism, there is some attempt at beauty. The point is that it is just not as good as Tolkien fans try to pass it off as. It may be very beautiful and poetic compared with similar pulp fiction, but that isn't saying much.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

please, once more with feeling! (none / 0) (#54)
by philipm on Wed Dec 12th, 2001 at 04:12:54 PM PST
Joanne, you need to come out of the closet. Your dull life as a closet homosexual can not be allowed to continue. You need to talk to wymynyst (found on this site) to realize what angry passion is missing in your life. No more hiding in the closet and licking secret salt licks for you. Be a woman, for man's sake!

I repeat, have you ever read any modern sci-fi? If you had, you would not be so intent on lionizing a midless scribbler with his pathological catholic distaste of humanity. For god's sake, stop being religious!


A question (none / 0) (#63)
by hauntedattics on Thu Dec 13th, 2001 at 11:21:56 AM PST
Do you actually drool on the keyboard as you type?

Just wondering.

are you a lezbo? (2.50 / 2) (#66)
by philipm on Thu Dec 13th, 2001 at 03:35:29 PM PST
can I sniff your fingers?


keep dreaming (none / 0) (#68)
by philipm on Thu Dec 13th, 2001 at 05:15:47 PM PST
yeah, keep on dreaming.
Don't expect me to participate in your liberal fantasy.
Next thing you know I'll be OOG the caveman and hit you over the head with my and make a woman of you.


Jesus... (none / 0) (#86)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 05:05:54 PM PST
...what an arse. You can't participate in reality, it seems, let alone a liberal fantasy.

Lezbo!? What closet have you been hiding in? I don't think I've heard that word since my school playground.

Or as we say in China - 'Zhen ta ma de bi' Wei Youdun

Re: 'The Joy of Farting' (none / 0) (#30)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 05:13:48 AM PST
>>> I would challenge you to provide support for your statement that I don't give Tolkien enough credit as a scholar. <<<

In addition to his famed Beowulf commentary, which has already been mentioned, the fact is that Tolkien remains the bar by which all translators of Sir Gawain measure themselves. That is clear in your quotations from Raffel's recent text. You imply that it has become the new standard, but in fact it has only just come out and has not yet been subjected to any serious analysis. There are also Tolkien's essays 'Tree and Leaf', 'On Fairy Stories', 'English and Welsh', and any number of others which are still well regarded in the various scholarly fields Tolkien participated in. His work on the Jerusalem Bible, cursory though it was, is also still praised. Considering the >decades< of determined effort by revisionists and deconstructionists with a vested interest in tearing the man down the fact that these works remain quite well regarded by the actual experts in the fields should be enough to earn something more than an 'it is almost true that he was a semi-competent scholar' from any REMOTELY impartial critic.

>>> Or can you provide me with the names serious, current, peer-reviewed work that still rely on Tolkien? <<<

Start with Raffel. Go on to every decent translation or commentary on Beowulf or Gawain published since Tolkien. We could proceed from there to linguistic circles, but your interest (or experience) seems limited to Tolkien's literary side. The fact that he was renowned in at least three markedly different fields of scholarship somehow still not earning him recognition as at least somewhat 'adequate'.

>>> You are a little anachronistic in your assertion that Tolkien worked slowly, probably because you have a computer-age vision of how his work proceeded. <<<


I said that he was infamous for his slow work and I meant it. Amongst his CONTEMPORARIES! They could not have been moved to anachronism by the speed of computer-age vision... they'd never experienced it, but they were quite aware that Tolkien produced material remarkably slowly.

>>> That he became sidetracked and left unfinished projects lying about while he chased odd leads is typical geek behavior. <<<

It seems that either his remarkable speed or incredible slowness will prove Tolkien's status as 'typical autistic geek'. I should have foreseen this inevitability to your 'logic'.

>>> Tolkein's fear of sex and passion is undeniable. <<<

And yet what courage the man must have had! To somehow produce FOUR children in spite of it all!

>>> Compare that with the original stories' sometimes tedious descriptions of the details of armor and clothing that the characters wore. <<<

Please cite even ONE example. This is a major aspect of his work, worthy of repeated criticism (you mentioned it in the first posting as well). No doubt the books ABOUND with such excessive descriptions of attire. Though in apparent contradiction there IS;

In response to a reader question about what style of clothing was worn in Middle-Earth;
"I do not know the detail of clothing. I visualize with great clarity and detail scenery and 'natural' objects, but not artefacts."
Letters of JRR Tolkien #211

So again, if you aren't just COMPLETELY making this up as you go along - please, some example of description of clothing more involved than 'His shirt was brown.'?

>>> But he didn't like the fart jokes and the fornication, so his version of the medieval world washes all that away. <<<

"The Rohirrim were not 'mediaeval', in our sense."
Same letter quoted above.

In 'The Hobbit' and 'Lord of the Rings' Tolkien was not creating a 'medieval world' and thus was not 'washing away' anything if he did not include elements you think essential in a world which >was< medieval.

As to the horrible lack in his translation of Sir Gawain - by all means, we need more "fart jokes" and "fornication" to go with our beloved defecation, rape and "anus-kissing". Tolkien has certainly robbed us of the true joys of the human condition.

>>> Speaking of poetry, what can we make of the thing with the lady clad in gray in the twilight shining? Nice regular rhyme scheme, I'll say that. Does it really make you think the poet has much experience with the textures of human passion? <<<

You'll forgive me if I was somewhat at pains to find a suitably short Tolkien poem dealing with romance and sex. I thought the charge was that he was 'incapable' of even thinking of such things. Now it seems to be that he does not 'clearly express' deep experience with the textures of human passion?

>>> She appears out of nowhere, and does something magical, we guess. The result is that the isolated man experiences something strange and wonderful, but how much is the poet really saying about it? How much can he say? Does this couple have sex, for example? Is that what Tolkien is hinting at? Maybe. <<<

Quite right. He should have beaten us about the head with it. None of this mystery and subtlety! That's not what romance is about. Who could possibly be expected to guess that the "magical" thing the woman does which the man finds such a "strange and wonderful" experience might be SEX without a little "anus-kissing" to clarify the matter. Yeesh! The nerve of the man!

>>> Tolkien just lacks the mastery of expression that even a middle-grade poet like Roethke has. <<<

I will grant you that Tolkien was not a master poet. Some of his poems are however quite good, and it was certainly absurd for you to claim that he was incapable of understanding poetry, romance or sex.

>>> I'm being as kind as I can towards Tolkien, but it is only so far that one can stretch the truth. <<<

Nonsense. You are certainly stretching the truth as far as it will bear (and a good bit beyond), but not in Tolkien's favor. Not when you invent objections which are clearly false (e.g. the nonexistant excessive detail of clothing) and continuously revise your argument in search of some 'sins' which might actually have merit - thus far we seem to have confirmed that Tolkien had insufficient crude humor, was not a master poet, and didn't write about sex constantly and explicitly. What shame and ignominy!

P.S. Thank you for returning my post to the server. I'd almost take back some of the unkind things I said about you except that I know a number of other postings have also disappeared. As to the 'inflammatory language' of my original text... you MUST be joking? This from the man who relegated Tolkien fans to the status of 'eunuch like autistic geeks' and then sought them out on fan sites to share this revelation with them for their edification though they would lack the 'education and experience' to comment upon it? There is a common 'discussion group' term clearly applicable to such actions. I used it. That was the 'inflammatory language' you removed. I stand by it.

- Conrad Dunkerson

Give elenchos a break. (none / 0) (#37)
by tkatchev on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 09:57:24 AM PST
As a liberalist child of the "enlightened" age, all of his existence eventually short-circuits on Freud's anal fantasies. Go easy on him.

Peace and much love...

One question: (2.00 / 1) (#15)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Dec 10th, 2001 at 10:30:18 PM PST
How can a dead author be considered modern?

An answer: (none / 0) (#16)
by elenchos on Mon Dec 10th, 2001 at 11:05:36 PM PST
Ccmpare: modern, contemporary and living.

There are those who would say modernity begins with Plutarch, while others say Shakespeare, and others Montaigne. By different criteria, the modern age starts in the Industrial Revolution, and coincides with Marx, for example. Others choose Freud as the "first modern". Again, it all depends on what you mean by "modern". It rarely is meant to be restricted only to the presently living, especially in regards to an author.

By any standard, Tolkien is a modern author, even if he mixed attitudes from Victorianism with Early Medievalism. Perhaps it is that ill-conceived juxtaposition that most makes him modern, eh?

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Ask Sonny Bono (none / 0) (#103)
by Pinocchio Poppins on Sun Dec 16th, 2001 at 10:47:26 AM PST
Note: I consider "modern" to mean "first published on or after January 1, 1923." (Read More...)

How can a dead author be considered modern?

Ask (the estate of) Sonny Bono. He was behind a bill that effectively made copyright perpetual by extending it 20 years every 20 years. Of course, Di$ney's contribution of $6m of soft money to both Republicratic parties to get the bill passed didn't hurt.

Vote Libertarian. Vote Green. Heck, <godwin>vote Libertarian National Socialist Green</godwin>. Anything but Republicrat.


I take offense. (4.50 / 2) (#20)
by tkatchev on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 01:32:41 AM PST
Tolkien was a Catholic writer, down to the marrow of his bones; in modern times, he would be called a religious fanatic.

Autism has nothing to do with his writings -- you are confusing Catholic ethical and social mores with autism. I understand that in the U.S. you are not too familiar with Catholic culture, but to any European person the Catholic background in Tolkien's writings is very obvious.

P.S. Tolkien had a Catholic wife, with the typically large number of children.

Peace and much love...

Yes, but just to clarify... (none / 0) (#32)
by hauntedattics on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 06:44:46 AM PST
I agree with your assessment of Tolkien as a Catholic writer instead of an autistic one. Just one note - Tolkien's wife, Edith, was actually an Anglican and it took him quite awhile to reconcile this with his own faith and to gain approval for his marriage from family and religious mentors. I can't remember whether his wife converted or not.

Tolkien's mother was Catholic and his father was Anglican. According to Humphrey Carter's biography, one of the reasons for Tolkien's early attachment to Catholicism was his perception that his paternal relatives treated his young, widowed mother very badly, even as she herself was dying. It's a very interesting biography.

One more thought - for 'autism' read 'upbringing', 'culture' and 'personality'? Hmm...

Missing the point? (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 01:40:18 AM PST
While I understand the motivation behind this topic, and there is no denying the lack of sex and like aspects of normal human experience in Tolkien's work, I think that perhaps there is something wrong with criticising the works based on that fact.

I never really assumed (and I don't know why anyone would) that the Lord of the Rings was meant to convey a well-rounded human experience. It is fantasy after all, and there are many (great and not-so-great) works of fantasy that emphasize some aspects of human experience over others. Tolkien's work is a collected mythology of a fictitious world, his own world to shape and define, including and ignoring whatever he wants from the conventional human experience of "the" world. It's standard literary technique to skew a concept in various directions away from its real-world form in order to say something about the original concept. Few would attack Jane Austen for her wooden and (in my opinion, and yes I've read them) infuriatingly boring characters. She is praised for them. Tolkien's world (or the parts he was able to write down) may not be a good representation of all of human nature, but why should they be? I have no idea.

An autistic world == bad?? Sigh.

That brings me to the accusation that Tolkien writes autistically. Should this even be a criticism? Autism exists in many forms and extents throughout the world's population. Importantly, there is no reason to believe that an autist can't perceive beauty and elegance in his world. It may be a perception radically different from, say, that of a stereotypical wrestling fan, but I don't think it should be thought of as something lesser. I personally enjoy the feeling that this kind of worldview can bring. But I also enjoy all sorts of comedy, sexual and otherwise. I not only enjoy reading about anal kissing, I enjoy doing it as well. Hey, having my tongue inside a girl, be it in her well-lubricated pussy or her tight cute anus, man oh man don't get me started... Don't cringe!

Anyway, the point is, I can appreciate many types of perception, and I love being able to see "the" world from very different perspectives, be they practical, whimsical, distant, or oppressive. You're losing out on a lot of experience if you limit yourself to a perspective of the world that always must include the things you've mentioned as lacking in Tolkien's vision.

Basically, it seems like your criticism implies that literature is only good when it uses a homogenized vision, a common set of values, the SAME VALUES and SAME PERCEPTION that is widely accepted as the "human condition". I think this is no basis on which to criticize (first) a work that is fantasy and (more importantly) any work of literature. Yeah, it's cliche, but diversity is a good thing. Think about that for a while, maybe?

Now if you'll excuse me I should return to reading my erotic fiction about women who cheat on their husbands and have sex with their own children.

It's no good to break one taboo and not the other.

my name's jeff

Not quite. (4.00 / 1) (#23)
by Calenth on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 02:03:20 AM PST
Well, I've read several translations of Beowulf and Chaucer; I've read John Gardner (in fact, I have a near-complete collection of first editions of his published works), and I've read Tolkien at length. I find your analysis of Tolkien's work somewhat superficial.

First off, yes, any translator of any work is going to emphasize some aspects of the translation more than others, and some less, due to their own personality, what they see as the merits of the work, etc. This does not necessarily devalue any given translation; it merely shows that we must not view translations as literal retellings of the original work, but as retellings and reworkings, just as we don't consider, say, Kiss me Kate a perfectly literal retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. No rewrite is ever going to be the same as the first crafting; thinking otherwise is somewhat silly.

Beyond that, I disagree with your assessment of Tolkien's characters as shallow or stock. many of them have *become* stock characters, yes, through constant repetition of their superficials throughout other fiction; and Tolkien's stiff, deliberately refined diction makes them appear more wooden than they actually are. However, on inspection, they are rich and deep; Aragorn's reluctance to accept his crown, Boromir's noble corruption, the complex interplay of loyalties between Sam and Frodo, the growing madness of Denethor, the rich, wise humanity of Gandalf, all are present in the text, if one takes the care to look for them. It's easy to become distracted by the stiffness of Tolkien's tone, and miss those complexities, but they are present to the discerning reader.

With that in mind, the above article is reduced, basically, to the statement "Tolkien doesn't have enough sex scenes." Well, not everything needs to have sex scenes, or ribald humour. That's nothing against ribald humour; but it's just not always appropriate. Could a version of the Lord of the Rings been written that included more sexual passion? Perhaps. But it doesn't; and, far from an "autistic" exclusion, it was a deliberate decision by the author, because the author wasn't interested in writing that kind of story. Doing so would have meant significant changes in tone, style, and plot; changes that, perhaps, would detract from the work as a whole. Different people write different things in different ways. Calling that "autism" is somewhere between reductionist and silly.

Hobbit movie! (5.00 / 1) (#34)
by jin wicked on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 07:07:53 AM PST
Yay! Only eight more days! I can't wait!

"Ars longa, vita brevis...Art is long, life is short."

Hobbits never take a shit (5.00 / 2) (#35)
by Blarney on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 07:58:03 AM PST
A friend of mine, a man who drinks much and says little, once summed up your whole article in one sentence. He walked over while we were discussing Tolkien and said:

"You know what? Hobbits never take a shit!"

Profound, but it covers what you're saying about lack of sex or bodily functions. What the old boy meant is that he'd slogged through all three enormous volumes of LOTR and had read a detailed description of what the Hobbits had done from the time they'd woken to the time they'd slept every day for over a year, he'd read what they ate and drank, he'd read in disbelief as Frodo lay abed for 3 days or Pippin spent 3 days in Gandalf's cloak on the back of Shadowfax the Magic Horse, and not only had Tolkien not mentioned any such bodily needs, he'd even consumed up so much of the Hobbits's time that they had no time left even to sneak off and take a dump!

Not to mention the Arwen controversy. We're told that Arwen is hot as hell, and that Aragorn and her are in love - but they save all this for the Appendix! The Samwise/Rosie relationship is similarly left for the Appendix.

In the narrative itself, Arwen is a mysterious cypher. Burger King has aroused the anger of many fanboys by making an Arwen Morningstar glass - but the only other alternative is to have Aragorn engaged to a woman who we never get to see except for a short wedding moment at the end of Return of The King, kind of like Columbo's wife but without the intentional humor. I've even seen a very expensive hand-carved LOTR chess set where the White King is Aragorn and the White Queen is Galadriel - Aragorn's girlfriend's grandmother, not his girlfriend herself! They chose NOT to show Arwen because Tolkien basically forgets about her during the main body of LOTR that contains all the important battle scenes, and therefore it makes no sense to stick her into the stylized battle of chess.

It's not just a matter of ignoring sex and bodily functions. Tolkien has actually constructed his narrative in such a manner that these things aren't even logically consistent with his own story!

Re: Yet more praise of shitting (none / 0) (#36)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Dec 11th, 2001 at 09:51:01 AM PST
>>> "You know what? Hobbits never take a shit!" <<<

They seldom breathe or eat either. Often there is no mention of them going to sleep or waking up. Clearly hobbits have a number of amazing powers.

>>> What the old boy meant is that he'd slogged through all three enormous volumes of LOTR and had read a detailed description of what the Hobbits had done from the time they'd woken to the time they'd slept every day for over a year, <<<

Yeah, you do realize that this is overblown hyperbole, right? Tolkien obviously did NOT provide a detailed description of everything done on every single day. The book would be many thousands of pages longer if he had. In point of fact, entire months and even years were skipped over in the course of a few sentences any number of times.

>>> he'd read what they ate and drank, <<<

On perhaps... what, a total of maybe ten occasions throughout the entire course of the book? Certainly not every day as implied.

>>> he'd read in disbelief as Frodo lay abed for 3 days or Pippin spent 3 days in Gandalf's cloak on the back of Shadowfax the Magic Horse, and not only had Tolkien not mentioned any such bodily needs, he'd even consumed up so much of the Hobbits's time that they had no time left even to sneak off and take a dump! <<<

Right... the 3 days that Frodo lay abed of which there is not a single word until he awoke provided absolutely no 'off camera' time for bodily functions. Likewise the page or so covering the three day ride (and specifically mentioning stops in passing) also was just so >jam packed< with detail that it is absolutely impossible that Pippin had any opportunity to relieve himself.

I mean, come ON! If you are going to make absurd objections to the books couldn't you at least TRY to find some which are remotely true? Harp about the numerous descriptions of trees and streams and landscapes or something... I'm not sure why these would be 'bad' either, but at least they are actually IN the book rather than just made up.

>>> They chose NOT to show Arwen because Tolkien basically forgets about her during the main body of LOTR that contains all the important battle scenes, and therefore it makes no sense to stick her into the stylized battle of chess. <<<

Here I'll forgive your mistake as mere ignorance of esoterica. As it happens Tolkien did not 'forget' about Arwen until the end of the book... he did not CREATE Arwen until the end of the book. He went back and inserted passing references to her (and Rosie for that matter) when it became clear that Lord of the Rings was going to be more than a short children book / 'sequel to The Hobbit' and some broader information about the characters' lives was called for. Actually, at one point Aragorn was to marry Eowyn. Since he couldn't at that point rewrite the story to work her into it he wrote up the material found in the appendixes to explain the relationship.

Hungry hungry hobbits (none / 0) (#125)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 06:28:55 AM PST
Actually I recall there many places where Tolkien talks about eatings--or about wanting to eat not having food--or about hunting and cooking a rabbit, thereby pissing of Gollum who likes raw meat. There's also a whole lot of tobacco smoking in the books: I haven't seen the movie, but I'm curious as to how that's dealt with given our current values.

As for the shitting: shitting was almost completely absent from almost all of victorian literature. Not anything special about Tolkien. There was bloody rape in some fin-de-siecle literature. Does anyone recall that Ulysses was banned? Shitting, anus-kissing, etc. was ground-breaking, exciting stuff!!

Tolkien was a pipe-smoking old fogie! You can't expect him to write about anus-kissing even if he DID like it in bed. It just wasn't his style.

PS, I think Joyce was clearly hebephrenic schizoid so nah nah nah!

PPS Just kidding.Armchair psychiatry IS plain silly, but from what evidence I can gather I'm inclined to think Tolkien was not autistic.

Let's dig Tolkien up and kick his ass. (5.00 / 2) (#46)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Dec 12th, 2001 at 12:06:01 AM PST
"Why?" You ask, "Just because he was Catholic?" Well, that's part of it, but there's a better reason: the man ruined science fiction. He did this by apotheosizing that single most nauseating of all Sci-Fi fanboy fetishes: the "story arc". Back in the day, science fiction novels were short.: a couple hundred pages. Olaf Stapledon, for example. He wrote short books. Short, thought-provoking books that utilized all the tools of the craft of fiction to create genuine works of imaginative art. Then one day Tolkien came strolling long, and from among the many subtle, delicate implements of storytelling (character, style, structure, etc.), seized up the biggest, roughest, bluntest, and most primitive of the lot (narrative), and hewed out his masterwork, the LOTR Trilogy: one long-ass book cleverly disguised as three (somewhat less long-ass) books.

The LOTR books contain no intriguing characters to pique the reader's imagination*, no structure to give the events some coherence, no symbolism apart from those read into the narrative by obsessive hobbit junkies. The books are nothing more than a series of events, one after the other, page after stupefying page. On and on the reader plods, motivated only by the urge to find out "what happens next". This simpleminded fixation on narrative is what turned the glorious inheritance of imaginative fiction into a series of simpleminded soap operas. The modern sci-fi fan plows through tomes whose wordcount would dismay Trollope (invariably subtitled something like "Book 1 of the Gorfelnisnebble Wars", there being around fifteen books in the series) like a frigid hausfrau devouring some pecs n' abs illumined romance story ("novel", being of course, too strong a word). In 1927, Fritz Lang created the still-astonishing film Metropolis, a powerful parable about industrial culture. Today, pale, flabby sci-fi fans breathlessly await Episode II, Attack Of The (fucking) Clones(!), in which "forbidden" lovers and Boba Fett's father dodge flailing plot convolutions while battling light-saber wielding Jedi Knights. Everyone knows it's going to suck, but they need to know how Lucas will resolve the "story arc".

All over the world, there are intelligent, creative, sensitive young people, people who might have developed a deeper understanding of themselves, the world, and humanity's place in it, had they been introduced to some mature, intelligent works of imaginative fiction, whether books or films. Instead they are forming a mesmerized conga line behind talentless, megalomaniacal pied pipers like George Lucas, who care about nothing except selling plastic toys. And we have J.R.R. Tolkien to blame for this. Jerk.

*The following exemplifies Tolkien's idea of character development: Sam is "the angry Hobbit".

yes indeed... (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by elenchos on Wed Dec 12th, 2001 at 12:36:42 AM PST
For fans of Tolkien's style, as well as autistics and children under two, things don't happen because of the tension between what one person knows and what another knows, nor the differences in their feelings, experiences or points of view. This is why autistics have such difficulty with both lying and telling jokes: they don't recgonize that what they know and what others know are two different things.

Instead, it is all about what happens. This happened, then this happend. Why? Not because of self-reflection or inner development. Only in response to some other external happening. It's like billiard balls, each reacting to the movements of all the others, but none having a distinct personality. The don't think, they just interact. When you get enough of these solid, undifferentiated shapes bouncing off one another in enough different ways, the result can be a narrative arc that goes on for quite some time.

Medieveal authors overcame this by having really weird things happen in the external world as symbols of inner uphevals or processes. Things like Parzival staring at the blood in the snow for hours entranced, or Lancelot going fucko bazoo when he finds Guenevere's comb (How does he know it's hers? He just knows... everyone knows whatever they need to know.) and stuffs it under his shirt so he can feel her hair.

And these strange non-sequiteurs that litter medieval stories don't show up in Tolkien's fiction, because he doesn't seem to know what these devices are there for. He probably saw them as flaws in the text. What a pity.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Interesting... (none / 0) (#147)
by Captain Chaos on Tue Dec 25th, 2001 at 10:03:53 AM PST
As someone that considers myself to be at least somewhat cultured, I must admit your post made me think a little bit (ouch, my head still hurts).

As a fan of both Star Wars and LotR, I do admit that while they are not truely great works (despite what some would have you beleive), they are a nice bit of mindless entertainment. I don't always want to learn something about myself, or better myself. The world would be a mighy dry place if everyone stuck to Emerson, Zen Buddhism, etc. Sometimes I just want to watch shit blow up and people stab each other with swords.

However you're right in that this sort of stuff does spawn far too many pasty geeks that live, breathe, eat and die this stuff. It seems almost that they would rather read about fantastic lives than go out and live them. I can safely say that I'm not one of them, but I was dangerously close to it in my early high school years (before I discovered the allures of booze and women -- my two dearest of vices).

Is this the authors' (Tolkien, Lucas) faults though? Shouldn't they be able to create a stupid fantasy world that most people can visit (not get lost in)?

It's an interesting thought at least...

<<Captain Chaos>>
AIM: ODrtyHonky
"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
-Ben Franklin

Tolkien? (3.00 / 1) (#58)
by tkatchev on Wed Dec 12th, 2001 at 11:50:58 PM PST
Tolkien is by far not the most autistic of the modern authors. In fact, he may be the least autistic representative of the industrial age.

Certainly authors like Vonnegut or Heller are by far more autistic than anything Tolkien could write. Anybody want to discuss the psychological problems plaguing Vonnegut?

Peace and much love...

Nice try. (none / 0) (#64)
by RobotSlave on Thu Dec 13th, 2001 at 12:42:38 PM PST
As you know, T-Kat, I'm on to you, so this will be my only response.

It would never occur to an autistic to quit while ahead. So if you want to discuss whatever problems might infest Vonnegut and Heller, you'll have to find something other than autism to harp on.

Might I suggest "shell shock," perhaps? Or its better-selling variant, "post-traumatic stress disorder?"

© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.

An essay on Tolkien (none / 0) (#60)
by otak on Thu Dec 13th, 2001 at 04:07:11 AM PST
I'd just like to point everyone in the direction of this article ("Is Tolkien Actually Any Good?"), whose author makes pretty much the same points as elenchos without giving Tolkien quite as much of a kicking.

Sorry for not participating more fully in the debate, but children's literature isn't really my field.

Dont forget.... (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 13th, 2001 at 04:33:17 PM PST

"contain no intriguing characters to pique the reader's imagination, no structure to give the events some coherence, no symbolism apart from those read into the narrative by obsessive (hobbit) junkies. The books are nothing more than a series of events, one after the other, page after stupefying page."

also applies to another famous work of fiction, that people seem very taken by.. its starts with B and ends in IBLE. Can we assume that all Christians are therefore Geeks too? and suffer from functional autism? Oh dear that's rather a large number of people. Perhaps those who can't live and let live, harp on about how much other people are deluded, are the one's who are "functionally autistic" as you put it.

And before you beat me with a large stick for comparing LoTR to the Bible, I am not. Imagination is a powerful thing and stories that contain as much fantasy as both these books, certainly stimulate that.. perhaps this is their strength?

You've got a point... (none / 0) (#70)
by elenchos on Thu Dec 13th, 2001 at 07:34:25 PM PST
...lots of the Bible is all narrative, no character. There are parts where that isn't so true, though, and where personality matters quite a bit. There are parts that are just great art. I really dig the Song of Solomon, for example, and Ecclesiastes is pretty good.

Anyway, I wouldn't assume all Christians are geeks even if all of the Bible were written in the externalized, narrative mode. Few Christians actually read the Bible, or really use the text itself as their primary connection to their religion. They either get their scripture second-hand, in fleshed-out stories (movies mostly) or get it through church rituals and other activities.

Now of those that do spend all their time poring over Bible stories, I would say, yes, they are real geeky. They are in fact a big part of the core audiance for fantasy fiction, and without the Christian readership, medieval fantasy would look far different than it does.

Further, it isn't all that surprising that among those Christians who have "turned away" and taken up some degree of paganism, or whatever you want to call it, as a substitute, the very same kind of books predominate.

I think there are certainly people who get something they really need from narrative of this type, and it doesn't matter if it comes in a religious or secular guise. They just want a big story arcs with lots of action, and little inner development; that is, lots of stuff going on and no one thinking about it, and no one unsure of who they are or what role they are designated to play. What they hate is any kind of deception or misdirection, like when someone is pulling their leg, or when facts mean different things on different levels or to different characters in the same setting, based on their various ways of understanding that setting and the events in it.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

specious (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by nathan on Thu Dec 13th, 2001 at 09:21:30 PM PST
Assuming the Bible is externalized narrative, which I would contest, the significance of externalized narrative to a society does not imply society-wide g**kdom. Otherwise, we'd be forced to concluded that Catherine of Aragon was just like those horrifying slashdot fanboys.

Tolkien-worshippers, unlike Christians, tend to reject non-externalized writing. This is a crippling incapacity in the modern age. Society, philosophy, and the very human condition have changed irrevocably since the Middle Ages, and Tolkien's (self-conscious?) retrogression presents a kind of historical curiosity - a modern work cast in the mould of a medieval work, but completely alien to actual medieval literature and experience.

For the medievals, genealogy, to choose an example, meant something - those nobles were people living close at hand, and rights of succession (for example) were very important points of law. Arms meant something, because one of the main activities of a noble was making war. Compare the complete normality of a XIIth-century duke owning a sword with the complete perversity of a XXIst-century Perl programmer owning one! The g**k is trying to construct an identity for himself, which is a curiously modern perversity. I suppose Tolkien is at least safer for others than deviant sex acts, which seems to be how most conventional people are drifting.

Christians read all sorts of literature. This one prefers Dostoevsky, Richard Adams, and David Foster Wallace to those "sci-fi" atrocities. Can you compare anyone in Heinlein or Asimov to such amazing characters as Don Gately, Raskolnikov, or Kelderek? No scientifiction character has ever had as rich an inner life.

For instance, in Infinite Jest, virtually the entirety of Don Gately's active life is presented to us as his present experience of the past through memory. The only things we actually see him do are totally mundane - going to work and AA, cooking, and so forth. About 2/3rds of the way through, he gets in an amazingly-rendered fight, and he spends the rest of the book incapacitated in the hospital. Everything is inside.

Can you imagine Bilbo Baggins thinking anything interesting, incapacitated in the hospital for weeks?

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Oh come on. (none / 0) (#72)
by tkatchev on Thu Dec 13th, 2001 at 10:53:17 PM PST
Tolkien does quite a good job with characterization; take, for example, the moral degeneration of Denethor, which to me was quite convincing. The problem is that Tolkien is not a writer, and probably couldn't write coherent prose if his life depended on it[1]. His use of language is boring and utilitatian, which gets in the way sometimes.

People need to realize that Tolkien is not fantasy and not sci-fi. It's a bona-fide English lit work -- what else do you expect from an Oxford professor? Tolkien's writings are more about classical and Biblical allusions than they are about "magic". (There's much less "magic" in LOTR than there is in Greek myth or in the Bible, by the way.) People need to know this! Read Tolkien if you enjoy boring British books, a sort of "Jane Austin with mythological allusions"; don't read Tolkien if you are a sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast. You'll be sorely disappointed.

[1] The same is said of Dostoyevsky, though I assume the translations have cleaned up his prose somewhat.

Peace and much love...

you'll notice (none / 0) (#73)
by nathan on Thu Dec 13th, 2001 at 11:24:05 PM PST
... That I never said Tolkien's characters have no inner lives, any more than I'd have said that of Lancelot. I said that their inner lives are represented through external actions - in other words, from an objective rather than a philosophic or psychological perspective. This does not prevent there being philosophic or psychological elements to the characterisation, of course. It does prevent the characters' inner selves from being more than slightly available to the reader.

Anyway, a g**k's reading of Tolkien is not the same as yours. He reads it as a kind of "society for creative anachronisms" pornography.

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

I see the problem here. (none / 0) (#74)
by tkatchev on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 01:00:12 AM PST
We really need to differentiate "Tolkien the author" and "Tolkien the way g**ks read him". I think the problem here is that g**ks read Tolkien without realizing the cultural context he wrote in[1]. They zero in on useless descriptions that Tolkien put there as filler, missing out on the stuff that he actually cared about when writing.

I also take issue with your claim that Tolkien's characters "have no inner lives" -- that simply isn't true. Take a look at Frodo during ascendance to Mt. Doom -- it's crudely written, but it's definitely there. You might also want to take a look at Tolkien's short story "Leaf by Niggle" -- it's his most developed work, from a literary standpoint, and it has the definite advantage in that it is completely unrelated to the "fantasy" genre.

[1] The problem here is "fandom" in general; "fandom" occurs when people with an extremely undeveloped aesthetic and cultural sense suddenly come to terms with something that doesn't fit in the bounds of "popular culture". This causes the poor people to lose their head, in a sense, becoming drones.

Peace and much love...

slight misreading (none / 0) (#75)
by nathan on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 01:17:40 AM PST
I wrote: "You'll notice that I never said that Tolkien's characters have no inner lives." They do have inner lives.

Sorry for the confusion.

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Do vs. Be (none / 0) (#77)
by hauntedattics on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 10:42:03 AM PST
I found this conversation very interesting, because it brought up a debate that my husband and I are constantly having about how we define ourselves and live our lives.

Nathan, one of your quibbles with Tolkien is that the reader only gets to know the characters through their external lives, i.e., what they do, as opposed to what they think or feel. For some people (read: Mr. Haunted) their lives are defined by their actions. It's not that they don't have feelings and thoughts, but they define themselves based on what they do with those thoughts, rather than the thoughts themselves. Is it any wonder that LOTR is Mr. Haunted's favorite piece of literature?

For some of us, who may have a more developed inner life than may strictly be good for us, it's all about being. What do you think about? What do you believe? The doer's argument when presented with this is: what you are is the sum total of what you do and have done. I know for me, there's more than this, but have not yet been able to articulate that.

Anyway, I'll sign off before I turn into Ms. Earnest Girl (too late?). Perhaps this would be better discussed offline.

my email address (none / 0) (#87)
by nathan on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 05:12:32 PM PST
is at the top of every post (=

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Escape! (none / 0) (#96)
by Anonymous Reader on Sat Dec 15th, 2001 at 08:25:43 PM PST
I think that one of the strengths of Tolkein that that it allows people who BE all day long, to read about people (whether they are human or not) who DO. In other words, its escapism. For those who live the 9 - 5, sitting at their desks, day-dreaming all day. I guess the first hour of Fight Club symbolised this too. Thats why I think the majority of people who identify or get geeky about Tolkein are the Generation X and Y'ers.

To me the majority of people who turn their nose up at Tolkein are perhaps too cynical for their own good.

On another matter, people laud Akira Kurasawa's "Seven Samurai" as a great piece of filmaking with great characters, perhaps in the top ten films ever made. Yet those who have seen it will know that there is much DOing from the characters and not much BEing, infact the most charismatic character, is all about DOing and he cant be bothered to BE. In someways LoTR is the book of the film that was never made (until now). Which doesnt harm its greatness, because it was the book of a great film that was never made.

btw I'm the same person who posted the "specious" Bible comment.. just too lazy to register!

introversion (none / 0) (#128)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 07:02:30 AM PST
What I find really interesting, then, is that geeks, who tend to be introverted, favour literature in which the character's thoughts and feelings are completely externalized.

Conversely, non-geeks, who may be more extroverted in their daily lives, sometimes prefer literature in which the characters are more introspective.

Maybe it's a case of seeking balance, finding in literature what is complementary to your way of life.

usage quibble (none / 0) (#76)
by nathan on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 03:05:21 AM PST
It's better to discard "to differentiate" in favour of "to distinguish between," unless you need to know the instantaneous slope.

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

or cells (none / 0) (#127)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 06:59:09 AM PST
or if you're talking about cell differentiation...

Tolkien's bedtime stories (3.00 / 1) (#78)
by Xyon on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 12:06:23 PM PST
Ok... I admit he is dry. I will admit that his views on good and evil are often black and white. I will admit that his story is fairly straight forward.

Here is the thing. These were written as CHILDRENS stories. Hey, guess when I fell in love with the story? As a CHILD. They are not literary pieces to be handed to adults and read to be insightful and provocative. They are written to entertain children, to be read as a bedtime story.

From my understanding The Hobbit was a tale he told to his children at bedtime and he finally wrote down.

"Anyone who says something is as easy as taking candy from a baby, has never tried to take candy from a baby."

But then why... (none / 0) (#79)
by elenchos on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 01:18:08 PM PST so many adults keep reading and re-reading these particular children's stories? Is it something about the stories, or about the adults who read them? Obviously, not all adults are interested in Tolkien. A select few are, and that select few seems to have certain characteristics in common.

So you can tell them "Those are just children's stories" but they won't listen. They gravitate towards this stuff for a reason, and dismissing Tolkien as a children's writer may excuse some of Tolkien's literary defects, but it only begs the question as to what is up with his adult fans.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Keep your cultural references straight. (none / 0) (#83)
by tkatchev on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 03:33:49 PM PST
Tolkien is a much more wide-spread and universal phenomenon than "g**k culture"[1]. The fact that g**ks enjoy Tolkien is really only limited to the U.S., through a quirk of history. Here in Russia, for example, Tolkien fans are almost universally hippies/"flower children". Not that hippies are any less stupid than g**ks, but they are definitely different subcultures with absolutely different mindsets on how to live life.

[1] There's no such thing, actually -- "g**k" to "culture" is as "petroleum" to "edible".

Peace and much love...

Obviously, I don't take Russia into account. (none / 0) (#84)
by elenchos on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 04:43:24 PM PST
I mean, why would I?

Seriously, it is true that lots of different people enjoy Tolkien a little. Even I do. Or I did when I was much younger. By the same token, I have derived some enjoyment, at the time, from watching monster trucks, or cheesy TV shows like Starsky and Hutch.

What makes geeks different here is that they don't just enjoy it as a little mental junkfood, some light entertainment. They enthrone authors like Tolkien as the central figure of their literary universe in the place that a normal person would put Shakespeare or Goethe or Proust (or even some dead Russian). They seriously want to claim that he is an important author with genuine artistic merit. That is an exceptional attitude that separtes Tolkien's followers from the rest of society.

My thesis is that these fans share the common trait of functional autism with Tolkien and with the authors of the middle ages. There is also overlap with Biblical authors and those obsessed with Biblical texts. I wouldn't be surprised if your Russian hippie Tolkien fans had much in common with the dirty hippie wing of geekdom, that is, RMS.

Yes, there are exceptions, but the general trend dominates the picture.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

So many reasons (none / 0) (#133)
by Kintara on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 12:12:31 PM PST
Another poster pointed out a good reason why Tolkien holds an attraction. You are obviously obessed with the concept that to be mature, you have to destroy your sense of wonder. Reading Tolkien is trying to grasp that more and more ephemeral concept in this modern day, innocence.

Basically, there are many many reasons to read a specific piece of literature. Saying that unintimidating concepts have a part to playisn't entirely untrue. But the language you use to describe people is insulting, not "reality".

You are almost saying something. (none / 0) (#135)
by elenchos on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 01:48:56 PM PST
In several posts, you make unsupported assertions such as, "You are obviously obessed with the concept that to be mature, you have to destroy your sense of wonder." I believe I mention in my articles and in my posts many examples of what I consider to be serious literature and what is simply easy entertainment. I place Tolkien in the latter category for his lack of depth, lack of range, and general simplistic lack of challenge to the reader.

But you seem to be reading somewhere that I put Tolkien in this category because he writes imaginitve fiction. Where do I say any such thing? And isn't the fiction I do take seriously, like Gawain, or the writings of John Gardner or Philip Larkin, quite imaginative?

I think you are misinterpreting the standard critisism of Tolkien that his books are childish. The reason they are called childish is not because they contain works of imagination. Look at how seriously fanstasy like Gullivers Travels is taken by critics. Tolkien is called childish and immature because his imaginative work is unchallenging. It entertains, but lacks the meaning and the ability to transform the reader's understanding the way mature literary works do. Have you read Tolkien's preface to LOTR that says so explicitly? I don't accuse him of dishonesty: he knew he wasn't saying anything beyond what you literally read on the page. If you really respect Tolkien, then take the man at his word: LOTR is not about anything, it's just fun.

Again, Tolkien's books are fine entertainment and if you like them, more power to you. But if you want to place them alongside Joyce or T.S. Eliot in the way of his excessively loyal friends CS Lewis and WH Auden and his blindly devoted fans, then you need to come up with some strong evidence to support the claim.

Merely defending the freedom to imagine is not nearly enough.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Okay (none / 0) (#138)
by Kintara on Fri Dec 21st, 2001 at 12:25:03 AM PST
To say that it isn't an important work is foolhardy, I think we can agree on that. I won't try to defend Tolkien's rhetorical style as genius. I will defend his ability to create a fiction of place as revolutionary.

I'm curious, have you ever tried to write something? If you have, I think that you need to keep in mind that it is a difficult thing. Not everyone has the same ability to craft as story as others. My favorite books at this point are George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. Martin is a much better AUTHOR, as far as writing a strong piece of fiction. Tolkien is a master at creating a world, but he isn't as gifted an author.

I am certainly not a raving fan; I'm not blind. I think you don't give him enough credit for creating what he did. The modern fantasy genre isn't there simply because emotionally stunted "autistics" like fiction that doesn't intimidate them.

You like Gulliver's Travels, but that is also one of the most biting pieces of literature I can think of. Not everyone wants to be blown off their rockers every single time they read a book (not that I don't like this, because I do). If all you are saying here is that Lord of the Rings shouldn't be compared to Gulliver's Travels or other literary works like that, then fine. I agree that it is an entirely different type of novel. I see the merit in the work. Fiction is more than Frankenstein being the new Prometheus, and how it can shed light on such diverse issues as parenting and cloning. Why can't it be a story about a hobbit that goes on a great adventure in a world that is still being mined of it's literary potential?

OK, I figured you out now. (none / 0) (#140)
by elenchos on Fri Dec 21st, 2001 at 01:22:36 AM PST
You do not read closely enough, and so you make mistakes. Listen:

I did not say I like Gulliver's Travels. I said critics take it seriously. I did not say Tolkien is "unimportant". Any popular author is important insofar as they sell a lot of books. Aside from that, from the very start of my article I make clear that I consider Tolkien important because of the following he has, and because of the interesting questions raised by the common characteristics of his fans. You ask me "Why can't it be a story about a hobbit that goes on a great adventure in a world that is still being mined of it's literary potential?" Yet I never said it couldn't. In fact, I very explicitly said several times that Tolkien and his fans have every right to exist and do their thing. I only take issue with putting this popular author on too high a pedestal.

Do we detect a pattern here? You are not responding to what I wrote. You are responding to what you think I wrote, or what you wish I had written so as to give yourself an easy mark to hit. I want you to stop it, all right?

Do I give him enough credit? Yes, Middle Earth is a huge creation. It is an astoundingly large and detailed imaginary world. I didn't mention this because it just isn't relavent, except perhaps as more evidence of the autistic obsession with detail, completeness and orderly perfection. Making a very large imaginary world is hardly sufficient to place one in the first rank of 20th century authors. I like to compare it to a video game with a really large number of levels. Impressive, yes. Art? No. Serious literature? No.

I don't know why you ask me if I've ever tried to write something. Whether I have or haven't will do nothing whatsoever to rescue poor Tolkien. And more obviously, you've just read (or attempted to read) a few thousand words written by me. Weird.

So aside from all that, which amounts to nothing, you drop in some statements about what you like to read, but leave out any evidence to support those statments. I'm left believing you when you say you like those authors, but so what? Can you tell me why I should like them? Can you tell me what that has to do with any of this?

The one and only thing you say which is actually on topic is when you say "The modern fantasy genre isn't there simply because emotionally stunted 'autistics' like fiction that doesn't intimidate them." In other words, you disagree with the main thesis of this article. You then proceed to change the subject again and leave me asking, once again, what is your evidence and reasoning for rejecting the idea that Tolkien's popularity is mainly due to an autistic-like readership? The more I know of them, the more autistic traits I see.

Can you show me a typical Tolkien fan and claim that they are empathic? That they know when the person they are talking to is interested in what they are saying? That they have good instincts for what is considered polite? That they do not obsess over minutae and miss the larger picture? That they don't prefer to be alone?

Go read up on autism and asperger's. At least check out Wired's response to this article and take the AQ test. Look at the DSM's list of autistic traits, and then look at LOTR and LOTR's fans, and tick them off one by one. Looks to me like I have a pretty good case.

This is not that radical a claim. Mild autism, or asperger's, has been noted in the geek and tech world for ages now, and it is not a surprise that the overlapping fantasy fan community shares many of these traits. There is nothing surprising in noting that the supreme fanstasy writer of this genre shares these traits.

What is surprising is the lengths some go to to deny it. Why is that?

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

You make points... (none / 0) (#141)
by Kintara on Fri Dec 21st, 2001 at 11:17:23 AM PST
I was going to mention that I was misinterpreting you and I still am.

Say some geeks have a slight form of autism. I still don't think it gives you the right to call someone a "village idiot". That statement is obviously derogotory. Basically, the problem I have isn't that your thesis isn't interesting, but that the presentation of it is unnecessarily insulting. I think it taints the rest of what you have to say.

I don't think you can apply your theory to everyone who likes Tolkien, I know this because I know that my mother really liked the books when she read them. She doesn't follow those traits. But I think I'm getting off-track, you mean only diehard fans. I don't know any diehard fans of Tolkien personally, so I can't presume to have knowledge over what they are like stereotypically. But I'm simply the type of person who finds blanket, stereotypical statements as inherently false.

My point of if you are an author was meant to be an author of fiction. Your sarcasm is poorly placed. The fact that it's obvious that you have written things like this before should automatically clue you in to the idea I meant the topic at hand, fiction. Don't be unnecessarily petty, I was simply curious.

As for my example of the fiction I like, I didn't think I needed to give examples about something when I was agreeing wih you. I used that example to say that Tolkien isn't as good as many authors at actually writing.

My point is to say that Tolkien was revolutionary in being such a complete fiction of place. I think you should do some reading on the role science fiction and fantasy play in our current literary society. Science fiction and fantasy are about the idea or concept. The story is more about the place or idea, than the characters (I would give you a jumping off point but I sold my textbooks back to the school). This doesn't conflict with your thesis, but the reason I bring it up is to try to explain how Tolkien's work is an important literary piece. This piece is about why Tolkien is an important author, when you get down to it. You don't have to be obessive or emotionally detatched to enjoy something as unique as an entire world. I think that is common sense. Tokien is revolutionary in this regard, is he not? I don't care about the minutae of the world (though I'm impressed by it), and I would have prefered that it's emotional scope was broader. But the reason Tolkien is important isn't those things, in my opinion. The piece has merit because he created a place that is so fleshed out that it is almost real. You simply think this is overrated and I don't.

"Village idiot" might hurt but... (none / 0) (#142)
by elenchos on Fri Dec 21st, 2001 at 03:17:17 PM PST
...I think there is plenty of truth behind it. In a different time and place, the very people who are now flying high in the tech industry would be considered useless fools who would be lucky to be kept around at all. What is today a slightly annoying or amusing social handicap can be a completely debilitating flaw, because the things that those with asperger's have to offer are only useful under narrow circumstances, such as in a high-tech society, or in the middle ages, for those lucky geeks who could be let into a monastary, rather then tossed aside and jeered at. In a society without monastaries at all, nor the social virtue of charity, like ancient Sparta or Athens, they would probalby just be dead.

Conversely, someone with other traits, like say a propensity for violence, might do really well in another time and place, but end up in prison in today's culture.

The fact should be recognized as a corralary to the theories about geek advantages and geek handicaps. Like those living on an insulin pump or enjoying modern imporvements in sexual and racial equality, geeks should count themselves lucky to live in today's world, no matter how much the fantasize about a different time.

Once again, liking Tolkien, enjoying one of his books, is not a sign of mild autism. It is those who make grandiose and indefensible claims about the status of these books who I think fall into that catgegory. Those who see his books as the pinnacle and read nothing but him and imitations of him, and then say he is as good as Nabokov or Joyce, whom they haven't read.

Tolkien did not invent the idea of huge imaginary worlds. That goes back, again, to Gulliver's Travels, and even to Paradise Lost or the Arthurian romances. Tolkien simply did it bigger. He stuck with Middle Earth for an incredible amount of time, and while you might admire it, what is it really? Maybe it's like a hobby model railroad of gradiose size. Still not art, but definitely a work of obsession.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

If you stated it like that... (none / 0) (#144)
by Kintara on Sat Dec 22nd, 2001 at 09:47:37 AM PST
I wouldn't have been so angry. I don't especially agree with you however. I've known many people in my life, and not too many fit the cartoon stereotype of someone utterly clueless in social situations. Most of the "geeks" I hung around with in school were simply people who didn't try to fit in because they realized that that doesn't really mean anything. There may be some people that are highly "geeky" that might fit the type of person you're thinking of, but it seems surpassingly small. I think most "geeks" are so more because of a choice than it being a disease. You also don't give the human mind enough credit for being adaptable. There are probably geeks now a days because there can be, people that would have probably just overcame they're handicap (if you can call it that, I'm not totally convinced of this theory).

Fandom is an interesting thing, some people get into something just because everyone is talking about it and you want to be able to talk about it too. So you read it, and like it enough to understand why others like it.

As for him creating imaginary worlds. Gulliver's Travels take place on Earth and was focused on a different concept. Paradise Lost is also something that is directly Earthy. Middle Earth has nothing to do with Earth except that it has similar qualities (I would've much preferred not to have the Christian undertones in the work, but they are transparent enough that if you don't know about Christianity you wouldn't see them). I know he isn't the first to do this, but he does do it more completely than anyone I can think of. It's a Human world, but it's not Earth. Plus, the archetypes in the story are compelling, even if Tolkien doesn't use them as well as other authors. What he lacks in presentation, he makes up for in vision. I also think that Tolkien's world has a certain flavor that is unique and interesting. That's simply my opinion.

Interesting. (none / 0) (#152)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Feb 20th, 2002 at 01:39:41 AM PST
"It is those who make grandiose and indefensible claims about the status of these books who I think fall into that catgegory."

Is this intended as irony?

You sir are an idiot (5.00 / 1) (#80)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 02:34:59 PM PST

Have you lost your marbles? (none / 0) (#81)
by Executor on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 02:50:01 PM PST
You have NO IDEA how real medieval people acted. If you said that to a medieval person, they'd be insulted! He'd probably have you flogged in the town square and beheaded!

BTW, The Lord of the Rings is a fantastic piece of literature, from what I've heard. It's about time you had your IQ tested. I speculate that it's kinda low.

I don't think the Tolkien characters had much time for romance and humor anyway. It is more likely that most of their time was spent just trying to avoid being eaten by an orc.

With friends like these... (none / 0) (#82)
by tkatchev on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 03:24:46 PM PST
...who needs enemies?

But seriously, pop culture must die.

Peace and much love...

No. I haven't. (none / 0) (#85)
by elenchos on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 05:01:09 PM PST
I do know exactly how medieval people wrote stories, because I can read it in the texts. I don't make any assertions about how they acted, but rather about what literary tools they had for expressing themselves artistically, and what sets of motifs, assumptions and narrative devices they wanted to see in their literature. Similarly, I can read for myself exactly the same things in modern fantasy literature, and use all this to make conjectures about what kind of people today read this sort of stuff. I test that against ovservable facts about these readers, such as social isolation, emotional immaturity, or an attraction for machine-centered jobs like programming rather than human-centered fields such as sales or medicine.

But you do think you can tell me what you think a medieval person would "probably" do if I said all this to him? How do you know what they would do? Were you told so by the same informant who told you that Lord of the Rings is a "fantastic piece of literature?" I suspect the trustworthyness of your mentor, and am dismayed that you take this person's opinions so seriously. You should conduct some research of your own and form your own opinions.

My IQ is 144.

Please do not DoS the Adequacy. Thank you.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

IQ (none / 0) (#91)
by nathan on Sat Dec 15th, 2001 at 02:59:13 PM PST
Is garbage. I should know - mine is in the 160+ range (estimated at 180 because no test is 'reliable' past that point.) This puts me in very exalted company, but you'll notice I'm certainly no Descartes, Newton, Locke, or Leibniz. At least, whatever IQ measures, it's not anything we could correlate with 'intelligence' as the term is used.

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Agreed. (none / 0) (#92)
by hauntedattics on Sat Dec 15th, 2001 at 03:42:50 PM PST
IQ only really measures how well you take standardized tests. Sometimes I wish I had a lower IQ but more street smarts. Or something.

you probably don't want that (none / 0) (#93)
by nathan on Sat Dec 15th, 2001 at 05:03:34 PM PST
What you want is to be a fully-realized human being, which has little to do with how much or how little you have of any measurable quality.

Proof: Assume that the highest goal of every person is to develop fully as a human being. Assume there is a measurable quality that correlates with the degree to which you are a fully-developed human being. Assume that there is a feedback process through which you can observe the influence your actions have upon the amount of this quality that you possess.

Every human being is therefore perfectly happy.

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Oh man... (none / 0) (#102)
by hauntedattics on Sun Dec 16th, 2001 at 09:32:04 AM PST
I think I'm going to have to print that out and frame it. Either that or just cry, like the girly-girl I am.

The love just keeps growing, doesn't it? I need a Kleenex.

I'm touched. (none / 0) (#104)
by nathan on Sun Dec 16th, 2001 at 11:39:17 AM PST
Too bad you can't say the preceding without sounding like a a cheap pseudo-sophisticate, because I mean it. Relevant Kierkegaard later today after I'm done practicing.

All the best,
Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Looking forward... (none / 0) (#109)
by hauntedattics on Mon Dec 17th, 2001 at 11:13:10 AM PST
to renewing my acquaintance with old Soren. It's been an embarrassingly long time.

Trying to send you an email, but my account isn't recognizing your server. Stupid Yahoo...

sorry about that... (none / 0) (#110)
by nathan on Mon Dec 17th, 2001 at 12:30:26 PM PST
Here are a couple more addresses. Sorry about the no Kierkegaard. I forgot my copy of A Literary Review at home. So, by Wednesday for sure.

All the best,
Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

I know it's garbage. (none / 0) (#94)
by elenchos on Sat Dec 15th, 2001 at 06:43:28 PM PST
But the Executor seemed to think it was important, and even speculated that my score on that test was low, based on my having a different set of beliefs about literature. I just thought I should respond factually, and let everyone draw whatever conclusions they wish about the validity of IQ scores, my intellectual gifts, and the worthness of my criticsim of Tolkien.

I note that while you contend that the numbers mean nothing, you still make a point of holding up your own impressive score to make your point. Were I to use such rhetorical flourishes, you would see me posting references to my series of heroic acts in service of my grateful nation, culminating in several coveted military decorations, or reminding readers that I my sexual prowess is nothing less than World Class, and that my history of romantic conquests is almost too incredible to believe.

I however, never stoop as some people, whom I won't name, such as you nathan, do.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

obviously, (none / 0) (#95)
by nathan on Sat Dec 15th, 2001 at 07:21:37 PM PST
Your inferior intellect is to blame for your misinterpretation of the relevance of my having mentioned my IQ. My first-hand experience of the absolute meaninglessness of a high IQ score is what gives me the right to assert said meaninglessness. If I didn't have a high IQ, I wouldn't be entitled to claim that it was a meaningless score, in light of my own experiences.

As this is the claim I made, elenchos old chum, I invite you to note that my argument hangs on the point in question. Without it, I'd have nothing to say. I can understand that a low score might make you a little sensitive, just as your mention of your World Class sexual prowess has left me squirming and convulsing in the grip of shame and envy, but that's no reason to assume that I'm a braggart.

All the best,
Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

meaningless (5.00 / 1) (#98)
by poltroon on Sat Dec 15th, 2001 at 11:00:42 PM PST
Your claim of the meaninglessness of superior intellect is comparable to a wealthy person informing some folks in the projects that wealth doesn't matter, or someone who knows God is dead informing one of His devotees that worship doesn't matter. People with inferior intellects are entitled to claim that IQ matters.

Maybe I should reconsider. (none / 0) (#99)
by elenchos on Sun Dec 16th, 2001 at 01:35:55 AM PST
I know there are lots of liberals who go around disparaging the importance of the IQ test. Maybe they are the same ones who want to run around naked in the woods, living off marijuana and free love, claiming they are all equal.

Which is all fine for them, but I just can't stand to be filthy all day long. And what about being able to go indoors to warm up? It's really cold where I live, you know. So maybe they can say that IQ means nothing, but even I, hardly a technophile, have to admit that I am not quite ready to ditch all civilization forever. So then order is required, and some means of establishing a just heirarchy. One that recognizes everyones basic theoretical equality without suddenly turning us all into a "Grizzly Adams" or a "Richard M. Stallman." Uck.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

AQ (none / 0) (#105)
by poltroon on Sun Dec 16th, 2001 at 12:27:07 PM PST
I believe you are speaking of the need for an Adequacy Quotient. A single number which would represent a person's adequacy, resulting from a complex formula weighting all of the things that really do matter, as well as those that don't. Things which matter a lot, like memberships in secret societies (excluding nudist colonies) would weight heavily, while things which might matter only a little bit, like IQ, would be featherweights. And some things would subtract, or even massage the result in other ways. People who can't shutup on greyhound would be a gross negative.

This is grave news, indeed. (none / 0) (#106)
by RobotSlave on Sun Dec 16th, 2001 at 12:45:17 PM PST
I'm afraid I can be quite loquacious after I've knocked back a few greyhounds.

© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.

None of that matters. (5.00 / 1) (#97)
by poltroon on Sat Dec 15th, 2001 at 09:27:07 PM PST
Rhetorical skills, sexual conquests. Inconsequential. And it goes without saying that IQ is irrelivant. What really matters is what secret society you belong to. Maybe this isn't obvious to those who don't belong.

Tolkien and the clear deep pool (none / 0) (#88)
by Intruder on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 08:41:33 PM PST
A wise man once pointed out that in a clear deep pool of water you can see to the bottom, yet in a hoof mark on the road with barely inches of water in it you can't see past a dirty reflection of yourself. The difference of course is one isn't that deep, it's simply muddy. Such are these criticisms of Tolkien's timeless trilogy. It may be that some critics simply will hammer anything that smacks of the Christian faith, even Christmas. C.S. Lewis, one of the most brilliant men to ever put pen to paper was a good friend of JRRT's and he seemed to like the work just fine. There's a troubling lack of insight in the youth of America. Notice I didn't say knowledge. It really isn't a wonder that the suicide rate is so high. So many have lost their sense of wonder. Innocence these days is as brief as the time it takes to learn how to turn on a TV. Merry Christmas. I'll visit again when it seems practical.

village idiot (4.00 / 1) (#89)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Dec 14th, 2001 at 11:39:34 PM PST
i am austistic (asperger's syndrome). have read the lord of the rings, enjoyed it immensely. have a degrees in mathematics and electronic engineering. currently working designing communications infrastructure for a major national project in australia.

"...these modern-day village idiots have been put to work building and maintaining the information systems that we take to be vital to our civilization"

who are you to dare say such things about me, and people like me. do you not have the capacity to accept something different to your own seemingly limited experience?

if it is people like you that my work is helping to spew forth such hate-filled invective, then i will resign TOMORROW.

Since no one else has the balls to tell you: (none / 0) (#90)
by elenchos on Sat Dec 15th, 2001 at 01:36:17 AM PST

Because yes, that is what people think of you. Math degree: great. Electronics: wonderful. Emotionally crippled: idiot.

Sorry. That is the truth. If you want lies, well, you know where to find them.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

awww...somebody needs a hug... (none / 0) (#120)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 12:34:50 PM PST
Elenchos, to wear you're insecurities any more plainly in view, you'd have to have "math and science make me feel inadequate" tattooed on your forehead.

So it's *me* then? (none / 0) (#121)
by elenchos on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 03:01:21 PM PST
You are saying that in fact the general populace does not care about geek social and emotional handicaps, and in fact simply pours unmitigated admiration on those with accomplishments in the sciences? This is just me with my insecurites making this up?

Really? Not. Maybe the whole population is insecure about math and science. Or maybe they just don't place as much value on that category of talents in comparison to the more humanistic virtues. Yes, people will pay a lot to own the fruits of math and science, like cell phones and PC's, but that does nothing to reduce the contempt they feel for the people who created those things for them.

Are they wrong to think like this? Probably. But my task is simply to report reality accurately, not to judge it.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Arrogant about your obvious steroetyping... (none / 0) (#132)
by Kintara on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 11:51:50 AM PST
Your "reality" is only assumption and guessing. You could just as easily say that the general populace is intimidated by anyone with an advanced degree. Everyone is human, people are intimidated by differences. If I tried to point out everything that people were insecure about because of their own perceived weaknesses, I would be stupid and dead.

There is a big difference between feeling intimidated and feeling contempt. Not everyone acts upon the object of their insecurities with contempt. If we did, then the world would have long ago collapsed into raging barbarism.

Actually, to say so is to imply that not only are "geeks" "autistic", but everyone is. Reacting with contempt just because you feel inadequate is just as emotionally underdeveloped as an inexperience with sex other social situations.

Perhaps this whole article is really an experiment in your own self-loathing.

PS- I usually don't degenerate into such personal attacks. However, to call an entire group of people "village idiots" is exactly the type of behavior that I frown upon as close-minded and childish.

Autism (5.00 / 1) (#100)
by cadbo on Sun Dec 16th, 2001 at 06:55:49 AM PST
I wonder if the author or posters have any idea what autism (or functional autism) is. Actually, I don't wonder at all. It is apparent. To confuse living within an inner world with Autism is incredibly shallow and lacking in scholarly responsibility. There's all this talk about being "News for Grown-Ups" and being qualified to read, this is some pretty sophomoric drivel.
Autism does include symptoms that include impairment to social abilities, but to then compare it to literature where the characters are described as simplistic and two-dimensional is itself simplistic and two-dimensional. Then to class anyone involved in modern technology as autistic or functionally autistic because he sees them as emotionally stunted or socially inadequate geeks is the most serious form of misrepresentation. We really see his intention when he then goes on to call them "village idiots." Elenchos is really using the autism label as a form of name-calling, misrepresenting a serious disorder in what is really a simplistic and two-dimensional attack on ideas and concepts that he seems to understand so little of.
In reality, his equating the series with a stereotype that he understands so little is merely a disguise to attempt to cover his real goal (that of attacking a work he doesn't enjoy and anyone who enjoys it). Tolkein's work represents a type of literature where the character is not the center of the work, but the means to the ideas represented. He doesn't write about the characters' inner most thoughts and feelings because it is not important to his goal. The ideas are presented in the events, leaving the audience to fill in the thoughts and feelings of the characters. In essence, he allows the readers to place themselves and their own thoughts into the work, and then steers them (right or wrong) along the ultimate plan he has set forth. This does not make it shallow or simplistic. It is merely a different form. As the author has pointed out, there are other works, good and bad, that treat the characters differently (for example, many of the romance novels).
This article is purely pseudointellectual drivel that is clearly contrived. I'd suggest if elenchos wants to be considered as anything but sophomporic, he ought to actually do some research on the tpoics he is discussing. But maybe that's not simplistic enough.

indeed! (none / 0) (#150)
by KingTT on Tue Jan 1st, 2002 at 02:44:22 AM PST
You are the first intelligent person I have seen on

Tolkien's strengths (5.00 / 1) (#101)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Dec 16th, 2001 at 07:23:44 AM PST
While I admit that Tolkien wasn't perfect, couldn't write poetry, and was far too Victorian, he didn't make it in textual criticism just because he was "there first". In his introduction to his translated Beowulf, Seamus Heaney says "[Tolkien] assumed... that the Beowulf poet was an imaginative writer rather than some kind of back-formation... Tolkien's brilliant literary treatment changed the way the poem was valued."

Tolkien had a sense of the grandeur and significance of myth; if his work is deficient in sex and humor, those are precisely the areas in which his imitators (and mostly inferiors) have overdone it.

(Oh, and C.S. Lewis, with his explicitly Christian allegories, never wrote a single scene that seemed authentically mythological.)

Clarification (none / 0) (#118)
by hauntedattics on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 09:54:11 AM PST
When you say "authentically mythological", what do you mean? And are you referring only to the Narnia books, or to every piece of fiction Lewis ever wrote?

For some of Lewis' thoughts on the mythological, try 'Til We Have Faces', which is his interpretation of the Cupid and Psyche myth. Amazing.

Hello. My very existence proves you wrong. (none / 0) (#107)
by Noodle on Sun Dec 16th, 2001 at 09:28:56 PM PST
Allow me to introduce myself. I am The Nefarious Noodle, as of today a member of this lovely little website known as

I feel required to comment on your article for, as this posting's comment line suggests, the very fact of my being utterly destroys the foundations of your exceedingly ignorant and absurdly paranoid hypotheses.

Here's how: I am an avid Tolkien fan. I am often described as a geek.

I am not, however, autistic--"functionally" or in any other way.

Despite this, as well as my perception that I am off to a good start and perhaps would be better off to quit while still ahead, I would like to go on to say that I am not the least bit insulted by your absurd accusation that all tolkien fans are geeks, and furthermore, that all geeks are autistic.

This reaction of mine emerges from one of the most deeply rooted of my moral/ethical beliefs: that it is unjust and uncalled for to hold against anyone any characteristic or condition which they happen to have been born with. It is my belief that there is nothing shameful in autism, and thus no reason for me to be threatened or ashamed by your hyperbolic, hateful rantings, which portray an imagined conspiracy of autistics and geeks as a sort of bumbling illuminati of socially retarted, "eunuch-like", obsessive, introverted subhumans.

Good day.

{The Nefarious Noodle}

"All you touch and all you see/Is all your life will ever be"
-Pink Floyd, Breathe

re: since no one has the balls to tell you... (none / 0) (#112)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Dec 17th, 2001 at 04:14:18 PM PST
let's see...i believe that this is supposed to be a forum for "grown-ups". that would preclude deliberate stupidity, cruelty, and ignorance. guess what? you lose. the rest of us get to keep our dignity and grace. you get the green weenie. simple as that!

God this is retarded. (none / 0) (#113)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Dec 18th, 2001 at 02:41:14 PM PST
There are people who need to be locked up and there are people whos should be shot, and who ever wrote this areticle needs to be dragged to the nearest street corner and shot.

sounds good, d00d (none / 0) (#115)
by nathan on Tue Dec 18th, 2001 at 07:18:29 PM PST
You won't think all these DOS threats and h4x0ring are so funny when the fuzz bust you up worse than Linux Zealot.

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Is it possible that Gollum was autistic? (5.00 / 1) (#114)
by pyramid termite on Tue Dec 18th, 2001 at 05:23:31 PM PST
Consider - echolalia; the tendency to say certain words over and over again, such as "nasty hobbitses" and "my Preciousss"; difficulty making eye contact, or touching others; reluctance to eat anything but the same food over and over again, such as fish; inexplicable aversion to certain types of clothing, such as elvish ropes; refusal to participate in society, for example, hiding in a cave for a few hundred years whispering to one's self; obsession with certain objects, such as rings; difficulty in sustaining conversations with people; and a tendency to use phrases in an original way that people do not understand ...

It's possible that Tolkien was subconsciously revealing his autistic nature through the character of Gollum.
He who hides his madman, dies voiceless - Henri Michaux

No, not at all (none / 0) (#126)
by cadbo on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 06:45:52 AM PST
First off, you need to understand what echolalia is. Gollum had an obssession with the ring, his precious, and coulnd't keep his mind on anything else. That's not echolalia at all. Echolalia is the repetition of phrases, generally as meaningless repetition, hence the name of the malady.
Additionally, the autism comments are way off base. There is much more to Autism than what you see in the movies like Rainman. The various symptoms you mentioned are part of a whole group af psychosis', and would generally not be considered autistic at all. Even traumatically induced autism, like that of some of the children from the Nazi concentration camp survivors (as opposed to early childhood autism which is what people generally think of) was substantially different behavior, such as total disconnection with the surrounding environment.
The premise for this whole topic is based on a total lack of knowledge and upon an incorrect stereotype of the psychosis.

Tolkien = Gollum = Secret Autist (none / 0) (#129)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 07:09:31 AM PST
I agree!

Tolkien was secretly autistic, but could only reveal it coded in the character of Gollum. Note too, that Gollum became autistic throught the operation of the ring. The Ring *causes* autism.

It also confers the power to rule. Maybe the ring symbolizes technology and its inherent--though hidden--autistic nature?

Yes. Gollum was the dark side. (none / 0) (#136)
by elenchos on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 01:53:20 PM PST
For Tolkien, and his Hobbit protagonists, becoming Gollum was the fate that awaits those who become too obsessive-compulsive about one thing to the exclusion of all else -- autism anyone? So they devolve into a state of paranoid, xenophobic, agrophobic, photophobic isolation -- autism anyone? Or perhaps "geeking out".

Tolkien was not secretly autistic. But he seemed to recognize that his marathon sessions descent into his personal mental pursuits, while useful in his job, and in making Middle Earth so detailed and elaborate, were also dangerous if taken too far. They subtract from one's humanity.

Perhaps this theme could have been used to make LOTR into a more serious artistic work, but the point is made so bluntly, with Frodo literally turning into Gollum for even the dullest reader to comprhend, that there is not much productive thought inspired by the work. But then as many have tried to say, including Tolkien himself, LOTR is not about anything, and you shouldn't read anything into it.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

So was he or wasn't he autistic? (none / 0) (#145)
by Anonymous Reader on Sat Dec 22nd, 2001 at 11:53:14 AM PST
I'm sorry but now I have become dreadfully confused. Is it possible to become autistic by reading/watching lord of the rings? If so then this is a serious mental health threat to the English speaking world right now, and it is despicable to see coporate interests circling in to exploit the whole mess. I have not looked at the DSM IV, and my dictionary's definintion for geek and autist are too imprecise for our purpose here, which is to understand it as a disease.

I think though, that in addition to the mental health component, "autism" has moral and ethical connotations. Despite your efforts to clinicalize his work, I really believe Tolkien had a crypto-autistic agenda. He WAS a crypto-autist: he was autistic but knew the only way to implement his program was interstitially, through novels and scholarship.

The thing I hate most about autists is their deviousness and their amorality. All they care about is money and power.

It is a syndrome. (none / 0) (#146)
by elenchos on Sat Dec 22nd, 2001 at 01:45:48 PM PST
Which means there is a list of symptoms and the more of those symptoms you have, the more autistic you are. When to make a diagnosis of aspergers or autism or not is mostly a matter of opinion, since there is no objective line that you cross from "normal" to autistic.

All I'm taliking about is autistic tendances -- that is, being more autistic than the population as a whole. That Tolkien's Gollum was very autistic and that he saw him as something that his protagonists could become suggests that this behavior was something Tolkien has reason to want to avoid, or to want to not become too engrossed in. Perhaps when Tolkien thought of what was worst in himself, in order to imagine a villain, he thought of his autistic side and wrote a portrait of that.

Why you are saying all that stuff about a program to make people autistic or something is utterly beyond me. Are you responding to something I haven't read?

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

sex overrated (none / 0) (#116)
by gloin1st on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 08:50:49 AM PST
well it is rather narrow point of view to concider everything that doesn't contain sex or violence a bad thing, bad poetry, bad stories, bad movies. Sex and violence is very over rated in movies, books and poetry in the last years and often ruin the story.... and if one looks closely in about 99% incidents it could be taken out and making the story better.... and in 99% incidents it's added to sell!!!!!!!!

They say that time makes the difference, but age doesn't make you a man.

sex sells but. (none / 0) (#117)
by nathan on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 09:05:14 AM PST
Sex sells, but sex and romance are essential human qualities. You don't need sex on stage to give romantic love a role. And whether it's central to the theme or not, it shouldn't be written off wholesale. Consider King Lear. Its theme is filial love, not romantic love; but without the three marriages in the opening, the political and social context of the action in the rest of the play would have been a dead letter.

I believe the author was not looking for the big bodice-ripping scene between two Tolkien characters. I believe he was actually looking for comprehensible human drives.

Best regards,
Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Where did you read that...? (none / 0) (#119)
by elenchos on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 10:27:13 AM PST
"Everything that doesn't contain sex or violence [is] a bad thing"? Does my article say that?

No of course it does not say that. Please refrain from posting straw man attacks on the Adequacy. That kind of irresesponsible post is strictly forbidden at this site and will not be tolerated. In my mind, your behavior is a kind of verbal violence. In fact, I consider it to be nothing less than TERRORISM!

Now run along and go post something stupid at slashdot. Don't come back to the Adequcay! I mean it. Go AWAY!

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

I agree (none / 0) (#130)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 07:15:45 AM PST
I think in fact that attack amounted to "literary terrorism". The FBI should be notified of him, and he should expect a little visit soon. "Sex is overrated" indeed! Everything is sexual. Gollum's predilection for raw rabbit meat is nothing if not innuendo.

Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail (none / 0) (#123)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 05:56:20 AM PST
O Wise One!

What about that other work, so beloved of geeks: Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail? Sexless ("Spankings... and then... oral sex")? Devoid of juvenile humour?

The geeks I know are the most juvenile, hilarious and sexually perverted lot I have ever met. They sometimes go into weird autistic trances, but they also can be very non-autistic.

Thank you. That is quite instructive. (none / 0) (#134)
by elenchos on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 12:47:27 PM PST
The geek/aspergers/fantasy fan reaction to sex is precisely as you describe it: purile, infantile, leering, snickering, and utterly unable to embrace sexuality as an immanent part of their own experience. It is either pushed aside, hyper-idealized, and made into some far-off dream (hence the need to write so many lines for Liv Tyler in LOTR), or else sex is denegrated into Beavis-and-Butthead pottymouth jokes. Monty Python is brilliant humor, to be sure, but what observations can we make about people whose only view of sex is glimpsed through that narrow, unrealistic window?

Both the extremes of idealization and of debasement are accessable to those with limited ability to empathize with others or express one's own feeling in a productive way. It is the middle ground that those with autistic tendancies miss.

My goal is not to insult and ridicule geeks, even if some think the truth hurts. I have nothing against geeks (although I have a lot against hacker terrorists, but that is another story). I only want to disabuse geeks and the public of some of the illusions about them that have been cooked up during the ill-fated dot com boom of the last few years.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Riddles (none / 0) (#137)
by Arwen on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 10:22:41 PM PST
I'll post the riddles that Gollum and Bilbo exchanged in the darkness of the caves. So if anyone can find a sign of autism within them go on... amaze me.

What has roots as nobody sees, Is taller than trees Up, up it goes, And yet it never grows? Answer: Mountain

Thirty white horses on a red hill, First they champ, Then they stamp, Then they stand still. Answer: Teeth.

Voiceless it cries, Wingless flutters, Toothless bites, Mouthless mutters. Answer: Wind

An eye in a blue face Saw an eye in a green face. "That eye is like to this eye" Said the first eye, "But in a low place, Not in high lace." Answer: Sun on the daisies.

It cannot be seen, cannot be felt, Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt. It lies behind stars and under hills, And empty holes it fills. It comes first and follows after, Ends life, kills laughter Answer: Dark.

A box without hinges, key, or lid, Yet golden treasure inside is hid. Answer: Eggs.

Alive without breath, As cold as death; Never thirsty, ever drinking, All in mail never clinking. Answer: Fish.

No-leg lay on one-leg, Two-legs sat near on three-legs, Four-legs got some. Answer: Fish on a little table, man at table sitting on a stool, the cat has the bones.

This thing all things devours: Birds, beasts, trees, flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel; Slays king, ruins town, And beats high mountain down. Answer: Time

People like us, know how to survive. There's no point in living if you can't feel the life. (Shirley Manson - Garbage)

What? (nt) (none / 0) (#139)
by elenchos on Fri Dec 21st, 2001 at 12:47:00 AM PST

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

It's funny... (none / 0) (#143)
by Anonymous Reader on Sat Dec 22nd, 2001 at 02:48:06 AM PST
how you geeks are trying to put yourselves in Tolkien's league. Get real please. Tolkien wrote an amazing book, and what the fuck have any of you done? That's right. Sweet F-A.

Tolkien = religion (none / 0) (#148)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 27th, 2001 at 08:39:05 AM PST
LotR is a religion epic, and so extraneous "characterizations" and metaphors and all that are irrelevant. The point is simply: "This is what happened." What happened matters because the book is well-written enough to connect with so many people, we have a book that's obviously emotionally true in a certain strong sense. That emotional truth is combined with the book's Christian sense of time, an anti-Pagan linearity - a history, in other words. That is the breaking of the "ring" - the breaking of the "wheel of time" the circular, endless nature of Pagan time - to destroy enslavement to myth and allow real history, technological Christian history, to begin. The events in the book are one-time-only, and so only a prequel (Silmarillion) is possible. Contrast this with the endless cycles of sill(ier) fantasy books where we have unending repeats of this same "quest", just as religions and films endlessly repeat the "Christ" idea. The Bible leads to the End. The LotR leads to the End.

Cahill? (none / 0) (#149)
by elenchos on Thu Dec 27th, 2001 at 02:40:33 PM PST
Didn't he push that "pagans don't know about linear time" theory in The Gift of the Jews? How is Gilgamesh or the Iliad less linear than the the Mosaic myths, or than Tolkien's work? Both feature permanent change and transition from one age to another, and even character development. Both Frodo and Bilbo become wiser for their adventures, for example. It's just that Tolien's character development is not all that rich.

And this supposedly special Christian sense of time includes cyclical elements as well, as in the re-capitulating of the Adam/Moses/David/Jesus story, or in Tolkien's tediously cyclical starting at a warm, homey English cottage and then going into some scary wilderness adventure, in the woods or underground or wherever, and then back to yet another cozy bower or lodge or what have you to sit by the fire and re-play that happy scene for the fiftieth time.

The number of non-Christian myths that lead to some ultimate "End" are endless. What is Gotterdammerung, eh?

And the presence or absence of these motifs does nothing to support the claim that LOTR is "well written", any more than the high sales figues of Tolkien's books makes them "well written". Tolkien wrote an incredibly large and detailed imaginary world, and that feat is almost the only thing that carries LOTR along, with little or no help from his plotting, characterization, writing style or anything else.

Unless you can tell me what "well written" means to you in terms of the text itself, and show me examples from the text...?

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

some funny say the least... (none / 0) (#151)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Jan 27th, 2002 at 09:51:50 AM PST
Where to start? Ok, your premise about the state of "geek-dom", and its relation to the writings of JRR Tolkein. So are geeks primarily responsible then, for the success and sales of Tolkein's books? Do his books touch people on some deep and meaningful level, or are they just mind-numbing brain candy that only intellectual weaklings would read?

Since he wrote before the advent of focus groups and mass market strategies, I guess that the former would be more indicative. Now if you want to rail about the horrid writing and grand larceny (8 books and counting...) of Robert Jordan, then I'm wholly on board!

And lets examine the use of the term "geek" if we may. You seem to be coming down on the mathematics/order/rational geek. What about the SCA member, Dungeons and Dragons playing, writing bad poetry and fiction in his/her spare time geek? Do they fit in to this equation, even if they couldn't tell a terrabyte from a troglodyte?

What about the 'I play in a band, wear black clothes, smoke a lot of dope' geek?

Or the Drama club geek?

Or the I have bad skin-I can't get laid geek?

Or the I just don't play sports geek?

See where I'm going with this? You're throwing out a lot of assumptions/stereotypes with this thesis of yours, something you denigrate others for doing.

My favorite though was where you postulate in a reply that geeks should be happy they live in current times, else they'd end up in a monastery or worse yet DEAD!

That reminds me of a party I went to once, non-geek crowd, (or geek crowd depending on your world-view) Intellectuals mostly, pretty people talking about very serious, or seriously shallow subjects. I hovered on the edges, catching bits of dialogue.

Eventually I was drawn into one discussion. Two guys discussing anarchy, something to the effect of it being the ideal social order. "Wouldn't it be great?" they asked?

Perhaps it was the fact that they each weighed perhaps a buck-30 soaking wet that set me off. In a suddenly combative mood, I scoffed at their proposal. Anarchy isn't human nature I said. They looked at me like I'd crawled out from under a rock.

"Ok, say anarchy rules right now, and I decide I really like your hat." (Why is it that guys who promote anarchy are skinny and wear berets anyway?...) "I weigh more than both of you put together, so I take it."

The conversation proceeded...

A bit later: "Now after a few weeks of me taking everything you treasure...'might makes right,' remember? You get tired of taking my abuse. The two of you being intelligent little people, decide to do something about it. So you get a few friends together, make a plan, then ambush me and knock me over the head with a big rock."

End of anarchy. A new social order prevails. The rule of law and all that rot. The little guy uses order to keep the big guy from taking his damn stuff all the time!

Now call me crazy, or at least long winded, but it seems to me that YOU fall into the category of people who should be glad you live in the modern age.

In fact I must strongly disagree with your supposition that "most of the world" views geeks with contempt. In fact most of the world views geeks with indifference until they need them. As soon as one's computer won't boot to windows, a geek in easy reach in a must. When you lose all your system files while trying to install a new hard-drive, suddenly its 1-800-CALL-GEEK.

The person that most of the world holds in contempt is the wannabe-intellectual. The person who tells them to their face that they are stupid. The person who ridicules, criticises, and shakes their head at our idiocy. The person who sighs heavily when topics not up to their standards of importance are brought up.

My final question elenchos is this. Shouldn't you be grateful that the great unwashed hordes DON'T read Proust? I mean if all the losers and geeks who read Tolkein read Proust instead, what would make you feel superior and important?

You'd be a victim of your own success, what a delicious irony that would be...


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