NARN I HÎN HÚRIN - The Tale of the Children of Húrin

A discussion of Tolkien's Unfinshed Tales
Lindariel
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Post by Lindariel » Sat May 09, 2009 1:09 am

Philipa, I agree that Aragorn puts his life on the line for the good of Middle-earth, but there is something in it for him, too -- a kingdom and a bride. Elrond told him that he would not permit his daughter to give up the life of the Eldar to be anything less than the wife of the King of Gondor and Arnor. So there is indeed something personal in it for Aragorn to gain.
It interests me that, his remorse and pity notwithstanding, he seems unable to apply his experiences and learning within different contexts: that's a child-like characteristic, and I wonder how much Turin's lack of hands-on guidance from his parents, in his early years, is responsible for him sustaining this quality into his adult years.
Chrissiejane, I like your comment about Turin's child-like inability to learn from his painful mistakes. This is reflected in the original Norse/Germanic tales of Sigurd the dragon-slayer, who was orphaned and then raised by the grudging and reluctant dwarf Mime. Once Mime realizes how incredibly strong Sigurd is, he plots to use the man-child in order to gain the Rhinegold guarded by the fearsome dragon Fafnir. He figures that Sigurd will either be killed in the attempt, or that he can trick the rather simple and hapless lad into giving him the gold and the Tarnhelm, and then Mime would kill Sigurd himself.

Sigurd is portrayed in this myth as reckless, thoughtless, easily led, and unable to learn from his mistakes. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Chrissiejane
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Post by Chrissiejane » Sat May 09, 2009 8:33 am

Lindariel wrote:
Sigurd is portrayed in this myth as reckless, thoughtless, easily led, and unable to learn from his mistakes. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
It certainly does!! I'm not familiar with "Sigurd" so thanks for this, Lindariel. Even the dwarf names are so very similar.

What a rich vein we mine here, and what an extraordinary use of these treasured sources by the Professor, as he crafted his middle-earth mythology.
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Philipa
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Post by Philipa » Sat May 09, 2009 1:16 pm

Lindariel wrote:Philipa, I agree that Aragorn puts his life on the line for the good of Middle-earth, but there is something in it for him, too -- a kingdom and a bride. Elrond told him that he would not permit his daughter to give up the life of the Eldar to be anything less than the wife of the King of Gondor and Arnor. So there is indeed something personal in it for Aragorn to gain.
Having not researched the passages needed to back any other thought up from my end, I wonder if Aragorn had very little hope of actually seeing his coronation and marriage come to fruition. The promises Elrond bestows, in my opinion, is not his motivating factor. If memory serves me correct, it was widely thought that Sauron was about to unleash his total power and it was a race against time with the Hobbits who may or may not have made it thus far into Mordor.

I believe marriage, in this instance, had very little influence over Aragorn to 'do the right thing' which was to save Middle-earth from darkness.

Throwing this back out there.
Was Turin's motives for 'doing the right thing' for personal gain or for the good of the people?
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Merry
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Post by Merry » Sat May 09, 2009 3:00 pm

I had the same thoughts, Philipa. Especially at the march to the Black Gate, I think Aragorn's motives were self-sacrificial. He may have had some hope that all would turn out well for him, but even after the coronation, he was not certain that Arwen would be his or that the line of kings would be restored until the White Tree was found.

And was Turin ever motivated to do the right thing? We don't get much insight into his inner thoughts, but he seems to me mostly motivated by revenge.

Edited to add: After I posted this, I remembered the story from Turin's childhood when he attempted to do what was, in his mind, the right thing: he gave his household's disabled servant the knife he received as a gift from his father and got scolded for it. This is an interesting factor in the molding of Turin's young personality, don't you think?

And I agree with you, too, Philipa, that it's possible to analyze something to death! :lol: But this is a strange tale, and one that I haven't enjoyed on face value, as I did the LOTR. So I'm happy to have all the help I can get here so that I can at least appreciate it.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

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Post by Philipa » Sat May 09, 2009 3:55 pm

Merry wrote:
And I agree with you, too, Philipa, that it's possible to analyze something to death! :lol: But this is a strange tale, and one that I haven't enjoyed on face value, as I did the LOTR. So I'm happy to have all the help I can get here so that I can at least appreciate it.
:lol: I am with you all the way there Merry.
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Thoughts from Eryn Lasgalen An online guide to all things Tolkien

Chrissiejane
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Post by Chrissiejane » Sat May 09, 2009 10:54 pm

Was Turin's motives for 'doing the right thing' for personal gain or for the good of the people?
Great question Philipa. I have been delving into Campbell looking for clues to Turin's actions and behaviour. Merry makes the good point that we don't get much of a look inside his mind, so we have to rely on his deeds. In that sense he seems to me to lack the innate nobility that drives the mature hero of myth and legend, but I'm not sure it is overt "personal gain" that drives him either. He seems unable to overcome his naturally aggressive, impulsive tendencies by calling on some aspect of his "better nature", because it simply has not developed sufficiently, and I think I see him as a failed hero because of that.
....her song released the sudden spring, like rising lark and falling rain, and melting water bubbling

Merry
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Post by Merry » Sun May 10, 2009 4:30 am

In our news thread, I posted a link to Shippey's review of Tolkien's soon to be published poetry on the legends of the Volsunga saga/Ring cycle, etc. In it, Shippey describes a reaction of Gunnar: "the true heroic temper: proud, mean, contemptuous, ending in silence."

Doesn't sound heroic to me, but I guess we chalk this up to cultural differences! So is this what he was aiming for in Turin?
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Iolanthe
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Post by Iolanthe » Sun May 10, 2009 2:35 pm

I think partly so - yes. The old Norse hero wasn't a hero in the way we understand it (or even quite the way the ancient Greeks and Romans understood it). Their heroism comes from knowing that it is their fate to fail or die (even the gods know Ragnorok is coming) and laughing in the face of it... or staring it out in stony silence. This was the heroism Tolkien found in the tales he loved and it certainly fits Turin. It also fits Aragorn at the Black Gate. It's not about Heroic deeds but the uncompromising spirit in which you face out the inevitable end.

In the old Norse versions of the Sigurd myth Gunnar isn't the same character that Wagner portrayed in the Ring Cycle. Wagner pretty much emasculated him. In the older stories he does fit the Norse heroic mould.

While we're on Wagner - it's only in the opera that Siegfried is brought up by the pathetic dwarf, Mime. In other versions there is no dwarf (and no 'Mime'). Shippey saw Tolkien as kicking against this twisting of the myth (and twisting of dwarves) in his creation of the 'Petty dwarves'. It's his little jab at Wagner and also a way of 'explaining' Wagner's Mime by pulling him into the mythos in a way Wagner couldn't find a way to justify.

This is the main thrust of Shippey's essay on the Sigurd legend and Wagner's Ring in 'Roots and Branches', which I was talking about above. For anyone interested in the roots of Tolkien's influences, it's fascinating.
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Merry
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Post by Merry » Sun May 10, 2009 4:02 pm

I definitely need to get that book!

So it's interesting that there is no hero of this type in LOTR. At least, I think there's not. Or is there? I'm starting to see more clearly that one of the reasons I love LOTR is that it is a collection of all the many ways there are to be a hero.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Iolanthe
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Post by Iolanthe » Sun May 10, 2009 6:33 pm

It's rather a 'fringe' book unless you're very interested in all the things that interested Tolkien - philology and it's history, the Goths and Huns, Finnish folk tales, Ring legends. Shippey picks away at the background that shaped Tolkien's writings. It's a random collections of lectures that have a bearing on Tolkien studies but aren't all a direct part of it. On the plus side, Shippey is a wonderfully clear writer (as we know) and can make it all interesting. Plus what I've learned has really shed light on where Tolkien was coming from.
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
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Lindariel
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Post by Lindariel » Mon May 11, 2009 4:42 pm

Having not researched the passages needed to back any other thought up from my end, I wonder if Aragorn had very little hope of actually seeing his coronation and marriage come to fruition. The promises Elrond bestows, in my opinion, is not his motivating factor. If memory serves me correct, it was widely thought that Sauron was about to unleash his total power and it was a race against time with the Hobbits who may or may not have made it thus far into Mordor.
I agree Philipa that Aragorn's primary motivation is the good of Middle-earth and that, like Gandalf, Aragorn believes that there is only a "fool's Hope" in thinking that they won't all be annihilated at the Black Gate. Nonetheless, it is still patently true that he DOES have something personal to gain, even if he thinks the chances are slim to none that he will succeed.

Elrond has named the kingship of Gondor and Arnor essentially as Arwen's "bride price." Tolkien does ultimately present Aragorn as the consummate Romantic hero, who wins the kingdom and gets the girl in the end.

It is enormously admirable that Aragorn persists in fulfilling his quest, even in the direst of circumstances. I am not remotely trying to take anything away from the extraordinary nobility of the character. But he DOES have something personal to gain, and I think this hope is part of what keeps him going -- he's doing it for Middle-earth (altruistic), for his people (nationalistic, and personal because of the kingship), and for the woman he loves (entirely personal).

What Tolkien has done is not to break the mold of the hero who pursues an impossible quest for personal gain, but to enhance the mold by having the hero pursue the quest for other reasons that he regards as far more important than personal gain. But it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge that personal gain is still in the mix!
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

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Post by Iolanthe » Tue May 12, 2009 5:00 pm

In fact, Aragorn is the all-round Hero whichever way you look at him. He is the Romantic 'all-for-love' Hero of Medieval Literature, the stoical 'keep-going-in-the-face-of-certain-death' Northern Hero, the Hero as Returning King of Greco-Roman and Christian beliefs and Campbell's Disposessed Questing Hero of practically every other myth you can think of. No wonder we are all addicted to him :lol: . Poor old Turin only falls in the second category, which was all Tolkien was concerned with telling in that particular story.
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Post by Merry » Tue May 12, 2009 5:18 pm

Aragorn is also Priest, Prophet, and King of the Old Testament.

So does anybody in LOTR play the role of a Turin-type hero?
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Chrissiejane
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Post by Chrissiejane » Tue May 12, 2009 5:52 pm

Merry wrote: So does anybody in LOTR play the role of a Turin-type hero?
How about Boromir?
....her song released the sudden spring, like rising lark and falling rain, and melting water bubbling

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Post by Iolanthe » Wed May 13, 2009 11:04 am

Yes - I think Boromir fits the typical Northern hero very well, flawed and misled, but bold and brave in the face of disaster.
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

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