Archive for reports

JRR Tolkien Essays

Posted in Book Reports, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 15, 2016 by Drogo

Reports on Tolkien

St. John’s at Prospect Hall – Catholic High School 1990-94

Taken from old reports by Walton Stowell, Robert Trainor, & Chris Chromey

*

Middle-Earth: Our History? – based on Rob Trainor’s highschool paper 1993

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontien, South Africa; on January 3, 1892. His father worked there as a banker, although both of his parents were from England. When John was only 4 years old, his father died. His mother Mabel then took young John and his younger brother, back to her native home in Birmingham, England. John was raised there and attended the King Edward School.

In 1904 when John was 12, his mother passed away. From then on he and his brother were raised by a Roman Catholic priest. Tolkien went from King Edward’s school, to Exeter College at Oxford. Before he got his degree, World War I broke out. In 1915 at the age of 23, John Tolkien entered the army, with the Lancashire Fusiliers regiment. The next year he married Miss Edith Bratt, who later became the mother of his children. Tolkien served with the Fusiliers from 1915 until 1918. At the end of WW1, he returned home and went back to college. John got his Masters Degree in 1919.

John studied many languages and knew a number of languages including Latin, German, Gothic, French, Greek, and Middle English. He developed his own hybrid languages, which would be the basis for his novels. John worked for a short time on the famous Oxford English Dictionary. He also became a ‘reader’ professor in English at Leeds University from 1924-25. His first publication was A Middle-English Vocabulary. Then he and E.V. Gordon published a critical text on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, analyzing the infamous old 14th-Century anonymous poem; John later translated it into modern English verse.

In 1925 John Tolkien left Leeds, and went to Pembroke College at Oxford; where he remained for the next 20 years, as Rawlison and Bosforth ‘Professor of Anglo-Saxon’. John’s imaginary languages led to him forming lands and stories around them. He sorted out places where his languages would be spoken, and what their attitudes might be culturally. John became an Oxford ‘fellow’ and ‘don’. He published Chaucer as a Philologist in 1934. Next came Beowulf: Monster and Critics. Tolkien himself had become a respected philologist. Philology is the study of written words, their origins, and meanings.

He wrote stories for his children, as ‘letters from’ Father Christmas. While grading college papers, John Tolkien began day-dreaming and sketching notes about a ‘hobbit’. In 1937, when Tolkien was 45 he was urged by his colleagues and children to publish his book called The Hobbit. It took him 12 more years to write the Lord of the Rings. It took John his life-time to write the Silmarillion, which was post-humously finished for him by his son, Christopher Tolkien.

‘Middle-Earth’ is the setting for The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Tolkien describes Middle-Earth using familiar objects and concepts, that make it seem like it could have existed in the distant past of England. This is how Tolkien conceived many of the ideas, and to many fans there are many charming and philosophical allegories and parallels. According to Tolkien, Middle-Earth (Arda) is ultimately its’ own world set in a fictional past of Earth, and not just mere metaphor.

Tolkien wanted to create a fictional mythology for the English, as they didn’t really have one before (besides the Mabinogion, Book of Kells, Beowulf, and the legends of King Arthur and Robin Hood). He certainly achieved his goal of creation. Middle-Earth should perhaps best be considered a fantasy time period, set in the distant pre-historic past of Europe. The anachronisms and races are very much fantasy, and the themes are mythical.

References where Tolkien compared the reality of modern Europe and the fiction of ancient Middle-Earth include: the landscape and habits of Hobbiton (like Welsh), Hobbiton’s position north-west, general geography, astronomy changes, language roots, and flora and fauna (including insects). “It is plain indeed, that in spite of later estrangement, Hobbits are relatives of ours: far nearer to us than elves, or even than dwarves.” (LOTR I, 20) The land is similar to Europe, but much has changed by years of ‘wind and wave’. The significance of the comparison, is that it gives us familiarity with the setting. These descriptions also add believable gravitas; that the lands have been there for a long time, and slowly changed over time. Things like tobacco, clothing, and chimneys are clearly taken out of time and place and dropped in for amusement.

*

JRR Tolkien – based on Chris Chromey’s research paper, English 11, 1992

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell; nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort.” – 1st paragraph of The Hobbit

In 1938 the world was introduced to its first hobbit. Somehow we fell in love with this short round creature who lives in a hole with a life of comfort and a friendly manner. Throw in an adventure of dwarves, magic treasure, and evil monsters; and you come up with a tale so enchanting that its popularity breaks new ground in literature and pioneers the way of fantasy writing.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was the brilliant inventor of the hobbit race (and Middle-Earth). The Hobbit, his first book concerning this magical world, started out as a story Tolkien told to his children in the form of letters he would give them every Christmas (via ‘Father Christmas’ mail), which contained a chapter of hobbit Bilbo Baggin’s adventures and illustrations. Later on in life Tolkien read the hobbit tales to his literary chums, in a jolly writing group called the Inklings. The Inklings were a group of scholars who met with C.S. Lewis in his Magdalen college apartments, and later in old local English taverns. They would talk, read excerpts, and drink with an air of romanticism. Tolkien enjoyed these meetings, perhaps like Bilbo gathering with friends in the Shire of Middle-Earth.

Tolkien’s academic credentials help to explain why he was able to create such wonderful literature. Tolkien studied mythology and languages, with a focus on Celtic and Germanic lore. Tolkien loved English legends, and wanted England to have more of its own mythological literature. He began creating his own languages also, and used characters (like dwarves, valkyries, and elves) from Teutonic folk-lore. Dwarves were like vikings with their Norse beards, weapons, and armor. Elves were like elegant thin human-sized medieval English style faeries. The tree-ents were like dryads, and the wild ‘wose’ men were like Gaels; both of Celtic origins.

His re-imaginings of old ideas became the basis for the modern ‘medieval-fantasy’ genre. Tolkien published the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings few books during his life-time, but he was not able to finish the Silmarillion which was his large bible of Middle-Earth mythology. Pieces of the Silmarillion were edited and published after JRR Tolkien died, by his son Christopher Tolkien. It shows his father’s genius for synthesizing imagination, literature, language, and mythology in extraordinary detail.

Although Tolkien did not use the term ‘fairy’ in his Middle-Earth books, he did create a “fairy world”, or to be more specific an old world of faeries, that humans had begun to colonize and spread into by more rapidly populating. Humans had shorter lives than the other races, so they clearly were procreating faster, and elves were leaving into the West (much as they did in Celtic myths and legends).

About JRR Tolkien’s youth, we know he had a playmate besides his brother when he lived in Africa; named Hillary. They would play fantasy adventures based on stories. When JRR was about 7 years old, he began to compose his own story about a dragon. He recalled a ‘philological fact’ that his mother was more interested in his grammar, than the story or the characters. She pointed out that he should not say “a green great dragon”, but rather “a great green dragon”. This incident ‘put him off’ from writing for many years, and he became ‘taken up’ with language.

JRR Tolkien wrote an essay (similar to Frank Baum’s intro to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) called ‘On Fairy Stories’, to explaining the relationship between reality, fiction, and folk-lore. Tolkien’s essay also addressed Andrew Lang’s ‘fairy-tales’, and what constitutes stories about the land of ‘Faerie’ and what does not (in the mind of Tolkien). Here is an excerpt:

On Fairy-Stories

Probably every writer making a secondary world, a fantasy, every sub-creator, wishes in some measure to be a real maker; or hopes that he is drawing on reality: hopes that the peculiar qualities of this secondary world (if not all the details) are derived from reality, or are flowing into it. If he indeed achieves a quality that can fairly be described by the dictionary definition: “inner consistency of reality”, it is difficult to conceive how this can be, if the work does not in some way partake in reality. The peculiar quality of the ‘joy’ in successful fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth. It is not only a ‘consolation’ for the sorrow of this world, but a satisfaction, and an answer to that question, ‘is it true?’. My answer to this question (that all children ask) was at first (quite rightly): “If you have built your little world well, yes: it is true in that world.” …

To summarize Tolkien’s point here, the art of literature acts as an enchantment upon our minds. A well constructed world of words that tells a story, invites us to believe that the lore is ‘real’. Every writer making a secondary ‘fantasy’ world, wants the reader to desire to believe it is real. This ‘believable’ quality is achieved by using real ‘primary world’ references or characters that can view the fiction through our perspective (and vice-versa). The joy of reading realistic fantasy, is not just escapism, but the thrill of believable travel to that world; by defining its’ own reality. If fiction is well created, it has its’ own consistent truth; which reflects our own reality, each version of every story a magic mirror. The world consistency can change, but it should be reflected on in some way, as in ‘Alice and Wonderland’ stories, the consistency is to be inconsistent with the ‘rules’; with self-exposed unpredictability, as commented on by characters or narration.

By providing linguistic and historic backgrounds, Tolkien gave us the essence of his characters. We can find out more about them, just as we look into non-fiction books for facts about our historical figures. Tolkien thrived on the fact that language is the basis to all communication, and therefore knowledge. Fantasy novels after Tolkien, often imitate his settings and plots, without the depth.

Tolkien’s work feels timeless, like by reading his words we can escape Time. Yet his words also remind us of the power of Time; as with the riddle from the Hobbit:

This thing all things devours;

Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;

Gnaws iron, bites steel;

Grinds hard stones to meal;

Slays kinds, ruins town,

And beats high mountain down.

Tolkien’s narration language seems ancient, and yet timeless because we can still understand it. One critic* accused his ‘boring’ writing of being a ‘syncretic antiquarian collage’. The critic goes on to say that Tolkien’s “ignorance of all he so conscientiously is trying to transmit” … “definitely leaves his writing lacking”. Clearly, the critic was wrong. To me this is a perfect example of how critics that go beyond factual summary, often show their own ignorance and childishness.

* Essays In Memorium; Catherine Stimpson; Salu & Ferrell (editors); Cornell University, 1979

Tolkien loved children, spent time with them, and made sure to be home at night to tuck in his own children. It was his love for children that drove him to write books for them, built upon college graduate level (adult) education and his child-like imagination (which apparently he never lost). He was not content with the children’s fairy tales he had, when he was a child. Tolkien wanted to give children books that he felt they deserved, that even their adult minds’ could grow into with maturity. The age orientation of his books seems to be progressive. The Hobbit is child-like, the Lord of the Rings is for teens, and the Silmarillion is for adults; but because Tolkien was a scholar, the books are really more advanced, always seeming to be one step ahead of the reader, transcending age at every turn.

END

*

Advertisements

SCOD Report 2015 Fall – Quest for New Cahokia

Posted in ecovillages, Organic Development, SCOD Status Update Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2015 by Drogo

Aeyla and Drogo conducted a long-distance road-trip vacation-sabbatical from Maryland to Missouri, for the purpose of scouting various sites for case studies and potential projects. First Cahokia was visited and studied for historic perspective on environmental architecture.

Cahokia=mound

Then the Boe family farm at Schoen Ridge was visited to investigate potential for a medieval long-house and eco-village. Finally on the way back home, Mark Twain’s boyhood home was toured for literary, economic, and social wisdom. In Indiana, we visited Pat Long; who took us to  Traders Point Creamery: Organic Gardens and Green Architecture (see Barns & Restaurant in photo above). Many other adventures were had along the way, but those stories are for another time when a more detailed account can be recorded.

0924151232a

Sometimes you need to get lost to find yourself; because you can find things while being lost, or lose things when found. Found objects can be lost, and lost objects can be found. A full spectrum of lost and found. Animals have agendas like food and dominance , but are easier to handle. People are like dogs, sometimes they keep trying to bite me, regardless of how i am. Nature is not fair, but compassion is priceless.

All the most important SCOD factors are present with the Boe property. The Boe family homestead is a working farm run by the family with NO full-time paid workers; so it truly is a small family farm of apx. 80 acres and 50-70 animals (fluctuates). The largest city nearby is St. Joseph. The Boe farm is north of Savannah, south of Ravenwood (Ravensborg?), and adjacent to the village of Rosendale (whose buildings are selling for ultra low prices of $500-$1000).

Modest Proposal for Fee of Services as Architect:

We can list all our concerns over the months, and work out issues during scheduled and paid meetings, so we dont waste tons of time in endless debates. we could schedule Longhouse meetings for just before Equinoxes and Solstices, so 4x a year or when funds or needs are low only once a year. perhaps i can only charge for changes and additions, and trade the main drawings for future ability to live there for free for several months or something. Pay shows respect of commitment to a project, beyond the practical need to pay bills. paying me for each meeting, will allow client control on their budget. At $20 an hour, meetings should be reasonable to do things gradually. we can do meetings on skype, or phone, or chatting with text on facebook or email. friends that are like family, loved ones, are special clients with whom there is a trust of sharing, and options should be patiently felt out and pressure alleviated, even for final decisions when they are organically arrived at by all. my role is still the same as before the trip, i dont want to micromanage a scod project without pay or owning it, BUT i can say visiting did clarify the viability of the site and the family’s sincerity towards concept and kindness for sure. In addition, Karen’s volunteering posting in SCOD group certainly proves she believes in the concepts intellectually; but there is no funding for those of us running that social media aspect.

In the mean time; I recommend the Boe family to save money; and collect, cut, and store wood to dry on site: 2″ large flat slabs for tables and beams; 4x4s, 6x6s, 12×12″ etc at various lengths as long as possible. i think we will work things out as we have thus far, continuing to organically define our collaborative art to make everyone happy. There will always be more to do, in a world of ‘way too much’, but we can take breaks and remember to play.

WOLF by Ranger Tess

Posted in Book Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2015 by Drogo

I have a copy of the book ‘Wolf’ by Ranger Tess.

First i want to talk about the author and her family homestead in Missouri. Ranger Tess is a small but strong young woman, who lives a life engaged with spirits of Nature. She does historical fantasy roleplay, which often evokes cultural memories of a time when humans lived closer to animals, plants, water, and land. She is a shepherd of many animals of all shapes and sizes; horses, deer, pigs, dogs, bunnies, and goddess knows what…. Her family all do farm and art type things also, and although humble they are quite generous, creative, devoted, and talented.

Second here is a short book report on Wolf. Wolf is the name of the main character, a boy raised by wolves (like Mowgli from Jungle Book by Kipling). Other characters include: Grant, Jess, Jackson, Scout, Tracker, Brenda, Zan, Scott, Vallon, and Taren. My edition is from 2010, with a really nice cover with hand and paw print. It is a portable 290 page book. The densely clean format and plain wording reads smoothly. The action is awesome, the messages are good, and it even has a good ending!!! I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves fantasy adventures.

 – Drogo

 WOLF video trailer

SCOD 2012 – Report 12

Posted in SCOD Status Update Reports with tags , , , , , , , on January 7, 2013 by Drogo

SCOD Facebook Group Report 2012 – December (Year in Review)

Fellow SCOD Members, as predicted (Chinese Zodiac) 2012 was a successful Year of the Dragon for me, and the world did not end (yet). As far as individual member news, for me the highlight was when I was asked to help brother Cordite to marry his partner MB in Wisconsin. Best Wedding Ever. As far as SCOD business goes, we are still entirely tribal, with no legal status or license; but that is ok because we have never had enough active members to need such things (yet). Also SCOD has no treasury funds, but again that is ok, as we still need to develop by-laws for investments and related fiscal functions. Which brings me to the main SCOD news for 2012; we now have a SCOD Council!

Yes in 2012 we democratically voted to form a Council! This will help to elect SCOD Presidents, and make all major decisions; including by-laws, restructuring, and additions to the Constitution. Alternative methods of motivation will help to keep SCOD alive, healthy, and active. Alternative motivation techniques are important, since we do not have main-stream methods like funds for pay, or membership dues.

In years past, we have tried to have regular SCOD meetings, and regular SCOD newsletters. The newsletters were more successful, because I was able to write and send a plethora of reports over the years. Meetings were less successful, as there have been only a few official SCOD meetings since the Pipedream was founded in the 1990’s.

Facebook is currently the largest forum for all SCOD Members, and it is those Active Members that will form the first SCOD Council. Those that do not attend regular meetings to vote, cannot be on the Council; but those unwilling and those unable to attend can remain SCOD Members as they wish. The purposes of having a Council are several. One reason for a Council is to develop organic and sustainable cooperative projects, and refining existing ones. Another reason is to reward Active Members with a resume title, and train them to be a SCOD President.

SCOD Political Responsibilities should be kept easy, to allow SCOD to continue to function on a volunteer level. Suggestions include having a monthly meeting, group reports, and group projects. The monthly meeting would be held by using our FB Group Chat. Group reports can be kept simple (based on this format). Projects include whatever we can get around to at the time.

One new project is designing a Victorian Pipedream Pub. The “SCOD Victorian Revival Tavern” could either be an urban townhouse pub style, or rural mansion. Victorian styles are obviously more popular, and several people have suggested because of steam-punk, and the high technology and design (relative to my former medieval based project). I feel at home with Victorian style, since I have been surrounded with Victorian style all my life. We will need volunteer writers and illustrators, but if all you have is a penny’s worth of ideas, that will do too. We are more likely to find investors to manifest a Victorian SCOD, here is to a more abundant future!

Note:  In 2012 we also established SCOD Music: Creative Collaborative, and published numerous projects online.