Friday, November 4, 2011

In the Fourth Age

"I did begin a story placed about 100 years after the Downfall [of Sauron], but it proved both sinister and depressing. Since we are dealing with Men it is inevitable that we should be concerned with the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good. So that the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice and prosperity, would become discontented and restless - while the dynasts descended from Aragorn would become just kings and governors - like Denethor or worse. I found that even so early there was an outcrop of revolutionary plots, about a centre of secret Satanistic religion; while Gondorian boys were playing at being Orcs and going round doing damage. I could have written a 'thriller' about the plot and its discovery and overthrow - but it would be just that. Not worth doing." --J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter #256, Letters of Tolkien

"I have written nothing beyond the first few years of the Fourth Age. (Except the beginning of a tale supposed to refer to the end of the reign of Eldarion about 100 years after the death of Aragorn. Then I of course discovered that the King's Peace would contain no tales worth recounting; and his wars would have little interest after the overthrow of Sauron; but that almost certainly a restlessness would appear about then, owing to the (it seems) inevitable boredom of Men with the good: there would be secret societies practising dark cults, and 'orc-cults' among adolescents.)" --J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter #338; Letters of Tolkien


love the girls said...

But yet somehow we have managed to have produced a number of very good stories well worth the writing that likewise did not shy away from our fallen nature.

Kristen Laveransdatter
Le Miserable
The Count of Monte Cristo
Gone with the Wind
and on and on.

What they all have in common is fallen nature, where it leads, and how it can be overcome.

Paul Stilwell said...

Indeed, Dostoevsky also comes to mind, though I've only read a chunk of the beginning of Crime and Punishment, having yet to read him.

Yes, and on and on. Because it's in The Lord of the Rings and other Tolkien works. Gollum, Denethor, Boromir, Saruman (though Saruman is not of the race of Men)...and then there's Turin, of whom is some recent mention, here:

I don't think Tolkien was so much shying away from fallen human nature in abandoning the story (after around thirteen pages). It's more of a disenchantment occurring after all that happened through the first, second and third ages. Sort of like what Frodo, Samwise, Merry and Pippin encounter when returning to the Shire in The Scouring of the Shire, except more like ten times that: Tolkien would have found the banality and ongoing redundancy of evil being perpetuated - the "long defeat of history" - after the victory already won, in small mean ways...he would have found the absurdity unbearable after the ages he breathed.

love the girls said...

But yet the character development, story line, gripping emotion, catharsis, you name it is that much greater in those stories concerning men.

We spend hundreds of pages with Frodo, but do we know him? Do we really even care when he appears dead at the end of the tunnel? Except insofar as we care about his mission.

We despise Uriah Heep far more than any creature found in Tolkein's fantasy because we see him so much closer to us.

The stories of men in Tolkien's fantasy are boring compared to the rest of the folk because they aren't developed in a manner that makes us care about them in the same was as we care about Scarlet, or Don Quixote or Jean Valjean.

or Agnes in David Copperfield who is not so much developed herself, but we want to keep her safe from the vile Heep.

I can understand his not wanting to write a story about men set in a fantasy setting where elf maidens are far more interesting to the imagination, but not because men as subject matter is banal and depressing.

Belfry Bat said...

I think, since Paul mentioned that I mentioned it, that Tolkien satisfied his need to explore the workings of evil within a particular man of the heroic type in Túrin; you'll note that even in the First Age, he only but sketches the downfall of Numenor, and only starts developing actual characters with Elendil and his sons. It seems that Man's tendency to evil would be too burdensome on its own if not for the oft-repeated prophesy of redemption; but the tale of Aragorn's coming into his Kingdom is the most fully developed imprint of that type, and for echos of the fall after salvation we already have the history of the Church.