Fall of Gondolin

I'm reading the last book by Tolkien (with a little help from Christopher, of course), and it's marvelous. J.R.R. Tolkien managed to write new mythology. His prose is poetic and feels more important than almost any other stories I've read. For him to embrace such a grand style with no irony is rare in a world of snide, cynical sneering.

J.R.R. Tolkien was a modern-day bard, a genius, and he is sorely missed.


"For him to embrace such a grand style with no irony is rare in a world of snide, cynical sneering."

This in particular!

Tolkien writes about & through a worldview of depth, dignity, and simple decency, which is much-needed in this age of superficiality & snark. Yet his worldview isn't stodgy or pompous, merely outer form with no inner substance. There's plenty of room for good-hearted humor, appreciation of the countless little beauties & treasures of life, and a recognition that compassion, respect & quiet humility are the true signifiers of nobility.

Nor does he stint on the terrible power of fear, envy, hatred, and the insatiable hunger for power & control. Yet he makes clear that while those negative qualities may have initial physical victory, they are ultimately empty & hollow, devouring themselves in the end.


It's also not as though he doesn't write with irony. He clearly knows when to employ a touch of it here and there to make the rest of the work pop (like adding vinegar or wine or another acid to a dish being prepared - adds flavour). But he looked around at people being too "cool" for epic poetry and heroic deeds and said, "No."

As you say: it's not sugar-coating or without depth, he's just embraced the mythic.


Well said! The mythic is a level of experience that seems in short supply these days.


It's too authentic. In some ways it's too "naked". It's earnest. That makes anybody who attempts it vulnerable, because if they muck it up, they come off as pretentious or airy-fairy or something like that. John Lennon talked about this, calling a song "Yer Blues" because that way there was a wink. So if those four English lads screwed up the blues and wound up sounding fakey or looking foolish, they could always go, "Oh, it was just a laugh; we were having you on," and Lennon said that was a bit cowardly and like he was hedging bets (or words to that effect).

Tolkien dared to say, "I believe this; this is in earnest," and it paid off. The risk is rewarded well.


Yes, sincerity is so often mocked today, isn't it? Yet those doing the mocking seem to be doping so out of their own insecurities, an unwillingness to delver below the superficial, which feels safer to them.

You may have experienced this yourself, when speaking earnestly about something important & deeply meaningful to you: someone will turn it into a joke, an easy & slightly sneering dismissal, because it troubles them. I've certainly experienced it. And of course I'm not talking about acting pompous or superior, as the mockers often claim—it's not "acting" at all, but an honest expression of personal substance. Yet many shy away from that & feel a need to tear it down.


I've had that for sure. It has been sorta "the way to go" since postmodernist thought start creeping in. That kind of thinking, although perhaps not widely considered, was already sneaking in around Tolkien when the Romances of the past were thought to be unsophisticated and stuffy; they were already sneering.

Of course, I assume that "the new sneers at the old" is hardly original to the late 19th/early 20th century (and forward). But that's the latest roll of it.

For me it was the Rise of the Hipsters. There was that early 2000s push to do everything "ironically" and everybody seemed to be trying to be popular by deliberately being unpopular, yet "retro" or "classic". Trends like the twirly mustaches came in - not because people "really" liked them, heaven forbid!, but because they were just, uh...doing it "ironically". People were, I think, looking for authenticity, but couching it behind irony so they didn't have to stand up and go, "Nobody likes suspenders and they aren't cool, but I like them so I'm going to wear them." Instead they opted for, "Nobody likes suspenders. They aren't cool. I hate them, but look: I'm wearing them as a laugh!"

It took eight minutes of that before I looked around and went, "Can't somebody just like something because it's good? Why can we only like things when they're bad to satiate some god of irony!?"

Tearing down is easy. Building is hard. And the risk is, of course, the destroyers, who seek to tear down.


Yes, that attempt to pose as authentic, but a fear of actually being so, unprotected by glib irony. I think this is an example of the concept of Inner-directed & Other-directed people. Tolkien is Inner-directed. Posers are Other-directed.

And that's a major part of the appeal of Tolkien, I think. He is authentic, and he offers his authenticity on every page of his work. Our current culture is hungry for that, but afraid of the vulnerability & openness it requires—because what would "people say" if they weren't being ironic?

Carl Jung once wrote that he never had a patient who didn't find personal meaning in midlife without returning to a religious outlook. He hastened to add that this need not be through any organized religion (although of course it can be as well), but rather a personal & individual sense of transcendent meaning to some extent. A lot of people find that in Tolkien.


As well they might.

Of course, I think of this quote:

"The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism."

I'm also reminded of George Harrison's quote, "Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait."

Middle age, of course, is a time of vast reflection on what has happened to oneself and what is to come. It is only natural to sharply consider the deeper meaning of things at that juncture and to find it in religion and spirituality, given that those disciplines are concerned primarily with meaning.