Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Tolkien’

I like the word meld, because it sounds basic and hard-working and makes me think of blacksmiths forging swords and armor.  Another reason to like it I just discovered: it’s a mystery word; etymologists have not uncovered its origins.  We know it was around by 1910.  It might come from Canasta, in which a player can “meld” certain combinations of cards for a score.  This sense of the word is derived from the German melden, “to make known, announce”, going back to the Proto-Germanic attested in the Old English meldian: “to declare, tell, display, proclaim”.  Or meld might be a past participle of the word mell, of which I’ve never heard before today.   

 

What does mell mean, then?  It is a verb we received from the Old French way back as far as A.D. 1300, meaning “to mix, meddle”.  Aha!  I have heard it!  But only in the compound: pell-mell, “confusedly”. 

 

This brings us to meddle, another word I’m fond of.  It is said to come from the same Old French, who received their word from the Latin, miscere, still meaning “to mix.” 

 

Though they sound much the same when speaking these days, meddle doesn’t have too much to do with metal, and it’s too bad, given my unfounded association of blacksmiths with the word meld (which may or may not have anything really to do with meddle).  Metal is English’s inheritance of Latin’s borrowing from the Greek metallon, used to refer to ore, but originally applied only as a verb “to mine, to quarry.”  Etymonline.com says that though the origin of that Greek word is unknown, there is evidence to suggest its relation to metallan, “to seek after.”

 

Medley does have to do with meddle, however.  Surprisingly, this word made its debut in English referring to a “hand-to-hand” combat, waiting 150 years before it took on the meaning of “mixture, combination” and then another 150 years or so before being applied to music. 

 

Melody was hanging out in the French language, thence visiting English at about the same time that medley meant “combat.”  Melody has always had to do with music, though.  It came from the Greek melos, which has two roots seen in melisma (from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning “a limb”??) and ode

 

Mellow can refer to music in the vernacular of the 21st century, but it actually began by referring to the characteristics of ripe fruit: “soft, sweet, juicy.”  It may have come from mele, “ground grain”, the root of meal, and been influenced by the Old English mearu, “soft, tender.”  Beginning in the 1680’s (less at present), mellow has described someone “slightly drunk.” 

 

This brings to mind the words mead and meadow, but they received their own article in 2007, so I’ll simply refer you there: http://ladyoflongbourn.blogspot.com/2007/04/mead.html

 

Before I close I would like to visit two other words that are similar (by reason of sharing all the same consonants) to meld:

Mold may be the most interesting, because it is the same word now, but its diverse definitions have had parallel (never-touching) evolutions. 

 

Mold meaning “hollow shape” from which we get the verb meaning “to knead, shape, mix, blend” has been part of the English vocabulary since A.D. 1200, originally “fashion, form; nature, native constitution, character”.  This came via the French from the Latin modulum “measure, model” from the same root as mode

 

Mold referring to the “furry fungus” is sometimes, especially outside of America, spelled mould, from moulen in the Old English related to the Old Norse mygla.  It is possible that these words derived from the Proto-Germanic root *(s)muk– and the Proto-Indo-European *meug– (found in the word mucus).  Or, it may come to us from the third definition of mold:

 

Mold, archaically, means “loose earth”.  In Old English molde meant “earth, sand, dust, soil, land, country, world”.  It is Proto-Germanic, attested in Old Frisian, Old Norse, Middle Dutch, Dutch, Old High German, Gothic.  Etymonline.com suggests that it also comes ultimately from a Proto-Indo-European root *mele– “to rub, grind” (as, once again, the word meal).  It is strange to me, given the similar sounds, but apparently this word has no common etymology with molt

 

Middle is my final word for today, and I appreciate that it comes into this essay after the Old English word, molde, “earth”, because Tolkien paired middle and earth as the name of his fantasy world.  (I have absolutely no evidence, but I wonder if Tolkien thought there was some relation?)  Middel is the Old English form, from Proto-Germanic root *medjaz directly bringing us mid, “with, in conjunction with, in company with, together with, among” probably from the Proto-Indo-European *medhyo once more meaning “middle.” 

 

(my source is http://www.Etymonline.com)

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

I read once that Tolkien wrote with the pessimism of the pagan poets [1].  They uphold honor in despair, dying well, the heroic quest at the cost of losing everything you love.  But I read Tolkien and see hope scribed into every chapter.  No light, whimsical child’s hope: Tolkien’s hope is not ignorance of all things capable of clouding the good.  It’s a “fool’s hope,” [2] where anyone can see that in all likelihood, if things go on as they are, the fool will be disappointed.  In Tolkien, the fools know themselves to be fools.

 

Elven-King Fingolfin’s story weighs on the side of hopelessness.  The Silmarillion describes him as “fey” [3] when he challenges Melkor himself, living up to the epic’s heroic virtues.  What hope has an elf against a Vala?  But the Vala ought to be contended, resisted, fought.  Though the high king of the Noldor (elves) finally fell, his fight was not without effect.  The Dark Lord Melkor limped forever after.

 

At first reading, it seems that Aragorn commends this sort of despairing courage when he instructs his friends, “There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.” [4]  But Gandalf, the wizard who knows his life-encompassing hope is foolish, lends a bit of insight early on.  Recognizing he is a fool, he embraces humility.  Do you hear it in Gandalf’s words? “Despair, or folly?  It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt.  We do not.  It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.” [5]  He acknowledges that he may not have all the facts.  Indeed, thinking that he knew what the end would be was the prideful downfall of Denethor, who let his enemy select the facts he discovered, and so turn him to despair, and madness.  Tolkien’s works regularly discourage the assumption that we know the future.

 

He also discourages despair.  I know it doesn’t seem true.  There are some pivotal scenes driven by characters that rashly pursue death and glory.  Aragorn is accused of it when he takes the Paths of the Dead, but that perspective is refuted.  Though the way had been shut for long ages, the time had come.  Such is the way of hope.  Things go on in a certain way until the due time, and then change springs upon the world.

 

Perhaps most potent is the image of grey-eyed Dernhelm.  The warrior’s silent, calm assurance going in search of death chilled Merry.  And it awakens our empathy.  Why shouldn’t it?  Who hasn’t felt that life is going from bad to worse, and decided to rush forward to the end instead of waiting to be burned with the house?  I think maybe Tolkien intended to carry us along with this character, so that we could reach the same end.  Dernhelm was proud, seeking glory before duty, though demonstrating loyal love to King Theoden by staying close to him.  And glory was achieved.  And darkness did descend on the desperate hero.  Even as Dernhelm revealed herself as Eowyn, golden hair glittering in the storm-piercing sunrise like a figment of hope; she was cast down, poisoned, and taken for dead.  [6]

 

But now we come to it:  Tolkien’s hope is the kind that stands further and deeper than all those things – than despair and darkness and loss.  He knew about a resurrection hope, about seeds bringing forth fruit after they have fallen into the ground and died.  Maybe he knew that fruit is more glorious than merely putting an end to your enemies.  His hope embraces grief.  It accepts hard things.  Good is not determined by the outcome, but by some transcendent standard.  And this hope joyfully trusts that there is someOne good who may intervene yet.

 

For Eowyn woke, and repented her destructive ideals.  Day came again.  Darkness was not unescapable.  Faramir described the moment, “I do not know what is happening.  The reason of my waking mind tells me that great evil has befallen and we stand at the end of days.  But my heart says nay; and all my limbs are light, and a hope and joy are come to me that no reason can deny.  … in this hour I do not believe that any darkness will endure!” [7]  So Eowyn moved and married, healed and tended gardens. [8]  Her story is a fuller exposition of the transformation the Fellowship underwent in Moria.  They lost their way and lost their guide.  They had descended black depths and awakened demons so that they lost hope.  But on the field high on the mountain slopes, “they came beyond hope under the sky and felt the wind on their faces.” [9]

 

[1] Hopeless Courage by Loren Rosson, III (http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/lord_of_the_rings_guest_03.htm)

[2] The Return of the King: “The Siege of Gondor” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 797)

[3] See etymology of “fey” at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fey&allowed_in_frame=0

[4] The Two Towers: “The Riders of Rohan” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 430)

[5] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Council of Elrond” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 262)

[6] The Return of the King: “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 823-824)

[7] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 941)

[8] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 943-944)

[9] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 323)

 

See also, The Silmarillion: “Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin” by JRR Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Flax flowers, tall and green crowned with sky-blue petals bend beneath the water falling on them, stooped double, dripping and dreary under a summer sky shrouded in grey.  Am I made for such a world where the beauty bows to necessity, where death is such a threat that the glorious sun must be cloaked, life furled?

I wish I had made these observations while on a walk, but I was driving.  My car was pulling out of my driveway to carry me to the paces just outside of where babies die.  The heart of me resisted, catching its hands on trees and fence-posts, loathe to leave them behind.  A few yards down is a rose garden, and in my mind I shrank…
Paradise.  Shadows and breezes, still and soft and just enough to shed the perfume of the roses across the little green between.  It is like an elven meadow, the little people running about their blissful business – the tallest thing they can see is the living tower of blossoms rimming their country.  No eyes can pass the borders to see the sorrow of our world, the world of mortals.  No tiny heart is troubled like mine, knowing of the suffering and wickedness and death I am about to witness.
Are elves diminutive or tall?  Those legendary immortals, acquainted with nature and delight, cut off from our world by size, by magic, or by choice?  Tolkien wrote about elves, despising the modern conception of them as petal-sized fairies, who evade human capture and notice by their slightness.  The author’s idea was of a people maybe even taller than men, living in the depths of the forests or across the leagues of the sea.  They were powerful and wise, joyful – and sorrowful.  For Tolkien’s elves could see over the roses.  They witnessed mortality and evil and the changing world, and it was a grief to them.
Mankind was in a different sort of captivity: not hemmed by fragrant visions of living loveliness.  Their world was the broken, mortal one, saturated with sorrow.  Battlements built high: temptation, pain, guilt, fear – guarded their even seeing something else.  And then they saw the stars.  Ever beautiful and untouched, glittering points in the sky spoke of a joy and purpose beyond the grueling existence through which men plodded.  Faramir tells that men burdened by mortality built high towers and communed with the stars.
They may have been wrong, seeking something forbidden, discontent with their created lot.  In the Shire lived a different sort of mortal.  They knew fear and death, so they celebrated peace and long life (and birthdays).  Life was too short to simply hoard; they gave away.  In the rural country of the Hobbits there was danger of becoming fat and complacent, gradually surrendering more and more of the fullness of life granted to mortals.  But most didn’t.  They enjoyed things: friends and family, stories, food and drink, walking, gardening.
Outside the Shire, the Hobbits proved that it was they who had built their country, and not that the simple life of relative ease had birthed their contentment.  Hobbits don’t have courage in tight spots because it is hiding deep inside them; their courage is something exercised every day.  It takes enormous strength to feast when you know the world is dark, to hope when it has been so long since anything happened to encourage you.  Complacency is not hope.  And Samwise Gamgee was not complacent.
He carried with him the willingness to seize good times.  His eyes grow large with wonder at the hidden elvish cities he visits. They’re in a gardenous land filled with herbs and wild game just his size, so he stews some rabbit. And when his quest seems hopeless, he sits on the top stair of an enemy tower and sings about the stars: those beacons of hope anchoring him to a reality he belongs to.  He can’t access it now, but it is no less sure or beautiful because it is far away.

Above all shadows rides the Sun



And Stars for ever dwell:



I will not say the Day is done,

Nor bid the Stars farewell.

So in the hobbits we have the same spirit as the elves seeing over their flower-hedge, but in reverse.  The elves looked out and what they saw brought grief in – something they would not shrink from, but took and blended with their joy.  And the hobbits looked out and what they saw brought hope, but they took it and blended it with their weariness.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

JRR Tolkien reported that he discovered his stories and the world of Middle Earth.  Bilbo’s complaint that Gandalf took him home from the Lonely Mountain by much too direct a route is perhaps a testimony of Tolkien’s own experience with the Hobbit and subsequently the Lord of the Rings.  Even though the legends of the elves were sprawling through Tolkien’s imagination long before either the Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings were published, we know that Lothlorien and Fangorn – and the stories swirling and marching out of them (respectively) – were unexpected developments that Tolkien met as he traveled with Frodo and his companions to the War of the Ring.

To many people, Tolkien’s description of his sub-creation is merely a metaphor for the creative process.  An idea wasn’t in mind before and then unfolds faster than we can write it or say it aloud, as though the whole were in existence before we thought of it.  But for Tolkien, there was more literal (and literary) truth to discovering his characters and stories than I would have guessed.  Especially in the Lord of the Rings, peoples and places were dynamically inspired by meditations on words.

The lore-master of Middle Earth discovered that fantastic age in the associations and nuances of English.  English being only the top level.  He didn’t just borrow an archaic term to sound old or fantastic (as so many pretentious fantasy-novelists do today).  Involved in the study was a lot of Old English, Old Norse, Germanic and even Celtic derivations.  Tolkien hoarded word-mathoms, specimens of language passed around and hidden in old literature, buried in place-names.  Believing that language bore record of a people with creativity, wisdom, and art worth recovering, Tolkien studied and meditated on this vocabulary.  Meanings all-but-forgotten, he restored them, often telling a story in which multiple definitions took living form.  Or if the meaning really was entirely lost, like the purposes of some mathoms, Tolkien upcycled them, making all new but deeply appropriate uses of obscure terms.

One of the easiest examples may be Ent.  In Tolkien’s mythology, Ents are shepherds of the trees, ancient forest-keepers.  They do many things, but most importantly they bring down the corrupted wizard, Saruman, by destroying his stone city, Isengard.  Ent comes from an old English word from which we also get the word “giant.”  The word is also associated with trolls, the large stone-people.  Giants in old mythology were credited with writing the pre-historic epics and constructing the marvelous architecture known to the medieval people only as mysterious ruins.  Tolkien pulled all of these things together in the character and origin of the Ents, and in their stone-dominating assault on Isengard.

Perhaps Lord of the Rings was so successful because Tolkien tapped our own imaginations, our nightmares and our memories, our own ways of talking about those things.  We feel that Middle Earth is part of us because it came from the same places we did.  The Hobbit was nursery-fable, not entirely devoid of the word study that made Tolkien’s other work great, but mostly a hodge-podge of mythology and adventure.  The Silmarillion studied not only the English words and Germanic epics at the root of English and American imagination, but also delved into Greek myths, and more obscure stories (like the Finnish Kaelevala).  The Elvish languages have more to do with Celtic.  All those sources were more remote than the wights and wargs and farthings and elves that resonate with the first audience of Lord of the Rings, the English.

Enormous creativity is required to make stories – especially as complex as Lord of the Rings – out of word definitions and roots.  But it also takes genius to hold so many facts and references in mind at once, seeing comparison and contrast, projecting backwards, remembering how the ancient form of the word was used in some obscure poem.  Thomas A. Shippey’s biography of Tolkien first alerted me to this aspect of his work some years ago, but The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary goes much farther.  A word can be a poem or a story or a mythology or just a really-neat sound.  Tolkien delighted in and brought out all of these.

For more information, look to the Letters of JRR Tolkien and the History of Middle Earth (a series of books containing early manuscripts of Middle Earth stories and also containing glossaries and word-explanations for the languages of middle earth).  I highly recommend that you pick up The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall, and Edmund Weiner.  It contains over a hundred studies of words either invented or revived by JRR Tolkien or associated with him and his work.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

If you ever get that craving to find treasure, just for the thrill of finding, get into words.  Open a dictionary, read the definition that catches your eye first, and ask yourself questions.  What did that one word mean in the definition?  What are the root words, and where are they from?  How is that word related to other words that sound or are spelled similarly but whose definitions you never before associated?  Is there a list of synonyms?  How are they similar to the first word?  What variations do they put on it?

If you get really interested in the hunt, pick up a book about interesting words.  There are many of them.  I have been a fan of JRR Tolkien for years, and his books contain many interesting words.  In one reading of Lord of the Rings, I kept a list.  Even if the words were familiar, I listed ones that sounded good, or that had an intriguing spelling – words that stood out.  Then I started looking up their definitions and etymologies.  There is a book I’m reading now, Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary.  Over half of the book is word studies.

You can learn interesting things, like the history of “ent.”  It comes from old Germanic and Norse words for giants.  In those ancient days when the word was in common use, the writers attributed still older ruined cities and half-remembered mythologies to “ents.”

Or you can start wondering about words.  How is dwarf related to orcs and ogres?  To rocks?  Especially in mythology, and very intentionally in Tolkien’s myths, relations between words reflect relations between the objects they describe.  If the word “dwarf” derives from a word for “rock,” then maybe dwarves themselves come from rocks.

EVEN if you are wrong (as I often am) you’ve started your imagination on a great story.  And along the way, you’ve undoubtedly found some absorbing treasures of words and history.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

 

 I recently acquired two lap harps. So far I have gotten them relatively tuned, with the help of my more musical brother. One I tuned while driving home from work today. The only thing I can play, besides Hugh Hewitt’s theme music, is that exciting sound effect in strange low-budget movies: dlu-n-h-n-hg! Like that.

My room is clean and my house is getting that way. Even my office got a taste of my motivation to clean today.
There are bright happy plants growing in my garden, but I don’t think I sowed them. Except I don’t know what the things I did plant are supposed to look like, so I’m catching onto Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares. Except I know what wheat looks like. In fact, I hope to witness a bit of wheat harvest this year. Anyone know a farmer?
In the world of sports, I am rather discouraged at the shoving matches that purport to be basketball finals. I don’t like the Lakers, and I don’t like the Nuggets even though I live in Colorado. For as long as I can remember, my friends have joked that any of us are “so good we could play for the Nuggets.” And now that isn’t true, so I don’t know what to say when watching amateur basketball antics. I don’t know anything about the Cleveland and Orlando basketball teams except that the games have been close and the buzzer shot in over time tonight did not go in to win the game. Colorado Rockies continue to lose. I heard something about being second worst in the league.
The snippets of information I have heard about the nomination to the Supreme Court have me concerned. She’s young. I don’t understand what makes her qualified. Since when does it become a point in your favor that you were not raised well? (I am not sure anyone was saying she wasn’t, but I did hear this mentioned lately, and decided to raise the question: poverty, divorced parents, an indifferent education are a lot better for Cinderella than world leaders.) Speaking of being raised well, what is up with the government deciding that it knows more about a child’s welfare and healthcare than its parents? And even if it did know better, who is going to pay for this mandated treatment? And what if the treatment actually makes the boy worse? What if something else would work better? It isn’t as though an adult with legal custody of a dependent were depriving the sick person of food and water, as was done with the complicity of the Florida courts several years ago.
Complicity is a word that makes me think of Ann Coulter, who is harsh, but oh so witty. And she is a real political conservative. Why do we let people call themselves liberal – a happy, generous title and moderate (as though most are not intolerant whiners) while we get called conservative, a misnomer if I ever heard one. If we’re supposed to be conserving something, we are certainly failing.
Words make me happy. I have lately acquired the following list:
Aver – to positively declare
See very, veritas, etc.

Asseverate – to declare earnestly or solemnly
See severe

Triumvirate – a government of three officers or magistrates functioning jointly; a coalition of three magistrates or rulers for joint administration; any association of three in office or authority

extirpate – to pluck up by the stem, pull out the roots, completely exterminate

fungible – something that is exchangeable or substitutable

embarrass – to cause confusion or shame

 
polemic – apologetics focused more on offense (attacking another position or belief) than defense
 
trow – to know, trust, or believe

serial comma – (also known as the Oxford comma or Harvard comma) is the comma used immediately before a grammatical conjunction (nearly always and or or; sometimes nor) that precedes the last item in a list of three or more items.

I am still trying to sort out whether trothplighting refers to engagement or marriage. I am particularly interested in the use Tolkien made of the word in Return of the King. For much of my life I thought it synonymous with marriage vows. Then I heard that it was the official betrothal ceremony (in the old days weddings were apparently three step processes). And just the other night, in between episodes of Monster Quest on the history channel, I heard “plight my troth” in wedding vows on a movie.

A few weeks ago I picked up a Rich Mullins album at the thrift store, and have been delighting to rouse myself with his songs, including The Color Green, which has this line: “the wrens have returned, and they’re nesting…”  I have been curious about wrens for a long time, and ptarmigans, partridges, grouse, and pheasants.  My other favorite birds are chickadees, eagles, and definitely at the top of the list: Mourning Doves. 

Look what I made:


 

And I simply cannot call it quits before 1 AM.  Silly me. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Marriage is like dancing with no music.  There is still an art, and still the beauty; there is also that dimension of more going on that you have in dancing.  But instead of the music being enough to give a girl an idea of where life is going, there is none; she must simply follow.  Give and take, go and come.  Trust.  Responsibility.  Cry for help.  Confidence.  Smile her delight.  Swing out, spin in.  Submit.  Dance. 
 
The hobbits watch in dreamlike fixation as a woman beautiful beyond their experience weaves her way around the table, in and out of the kitchen, gracefully dodging a man equally unique to the hobbits: big, clumpy, capering and energetic.  Styles so different, the two manage to make a fascinating dance of contrast and complement. How do they make it work?  What force prevents collision? 
 
Tom Bombadil sang about his lady when he thought no one was listening, and when he knew they were following, straining for his every word.  He praised her as beautiful and trusted her to be ready with hospitality.  Brave and free, each with few friends, the couple shared life and interests with each other.  Perhaps many nights were spent crafting a tale to spell his lady.  He gave her gifts and she did the washing.  They each remained who they had been before they met, but they sacrificed things and changed also, making a brand new life together.  When the hobbits asked Goldberry about her husband, she spoke with quiet respect, “He is the master.”  Perhaps there is no satisfying explanation of Tom Bombadil because he was a man who needed to be known rather than described.  There are no memorized steps of the dance with him.  Their house is full of the comforts of community: ready beds, generous tables, and long conversation by the fire.  Goldberry and Tom knew the value of relationship. 
 
Main characters in Lord of the Rings are unmarried.  Nine companions, the fellowship of the Ring, had the freedom to risk their lives and tramp across the world because they were not married.  A man or two was moving towards marriage, dreaming of the woman he’d left behind.  Tolkien was a real romantic, the kind who understood the pull of adventure and of chivalry, as well as of courting and of marriage.  This last is not too common in literature, that real married couples would be glimpsed in story and lifted up for their simple virtue and hard submission.  Immensely happy in marriage to Edith himself, this author did not shy away from representing marriage in his stories. 
 
Another example is found in The Fellowship of the Ring before the hobbits encounter Tom Bombadil.  Still in the Shire, they meet a hobbit couple, the honored Mrs. Maggot and her intimidating husband, Farmer Maggot.  It’s a dreadful name to inherit, let alone acquire, so Mrs. Maggot must have loved her husband, and made the most of it.  She too embodied hospitality.  Spin in.  Feeding a large working farm and family of sons and daughters, she didn’t mind at all to include three hungry strangers at her table, presenting them with heaping helpings of farm fare, mushrooms, and good homebrew.  Farmer Maggot was a good provider, a defender of his property – maybe less because of what it grew than of whom it harbored.  And when in the service of doing what was right he risked his own safety for newfound friends – this round hobbit reminiscent of the American rednecks – his wife stood at the door and cried out for her husband to be careful.  Swing out.  This isn’t just something people say.  Do you see women encouraging their husbands to do the right thing even though it is dangerous?  Do you hear people in unhappy marriages nervous about the other’s safety?  No, it comes from a heart of love, natural – yes, and common but only because the simple heart of marriage is common.  Isn’t that how it should be? 
 
There are other examples, men and women whose wedded bliss was interrupted by wars, disease, or accident.  Take Frodo’s parents.  Rumors ran wild that Drogo didn’t get along with his wife, and that she thought his girth was too large even for a hobbit.  They died together, though, out boating – and as far as the Gaffer was concerned, that was their only crime.  It left Frodo to the wildness of youth, an orphaned rascal living with an extended family too big to take good care of him and to teach him responsibility.  This again was the implication given by the sturdy gardener, who had carefully raised his own son under his eye and apprenticeship.  What an unlikely beginning for the Ringbearer, whose sense of responsibility called him into the darkness, surrendering forever the possibility of home!
 
Elrond’s marriage does not appear to have been happy.  His wife early (well, thousands of years into their relationship) grew weary of their home and left.  Why didn’t she stay for him?  Why didn’t he go with her?  Should he have gone, the Halfelven whose work was so large in preserving the Middle Earth for which his father had risked much more than happiness and comfort?  Should she have stayed, enduring without music, just for the following?
 
Many characters seem to have lost their mothers or fathers early, including Samwise, Frodo, Aragorn, Boromir & Faramir, and Eowyn & Eomer.  It was a hard time, and even marriage did not guard against sorrow and loss.  This is evidence that Tolkien’s ideal of marriage was not unrelated to the real world in which he moved.  His stories exemplify love and commitment in the midst of the hard times to which we can relate. 
 
Another splendid example of the exertions of marital love and the roles each person takes is the marriage of Earendil and Elwing.  Earendil, on behalf of his people, sought to reach the undying lands and plead for the help of the Valar.  He was lost at sea, hopeless, when his elven wife flew to him in the form of a white bird with a silmaril at her breast, and, lighting the way to Valinor, saved her husband and delivered his mission from doom.  He initiated risk, and she accepted the separation and the danger.  In this story the husband led the way on a mission to save the world (as all husbands should), and she supported him with strength of her own and encouragement.  I believe the story goes that the couple now above Middle Earth sails till time ends, in the heavens, her silmaril doomed to light the way for all men as the evening star. 
 
Many people in Tolkien’s tales are related to Luthien and Beren, who stole that silmaril from the crown of Morgoth.  Luthien was the daughter of Thingol (a high elf, one of the first to see Valinor) and Melian (a Maia).  Their marriage is another inspiration.  King Thingol loved Melian and worked his whole life to make her happy.  But he also respected his bride and took her advice.  This position Melian wielded to moderate her husband’s temper, thereby making him the best man, father, and king that he could be.  Ruling together, they preserved and protected a kingdom of peace, beauty, and, until fate started to unravel the spell of protection Melian had woven around Doriath, of justice. 
 
Thingol and Melian’s marriage is somewhat reminiscent of Celeborn and Galadriel, both strong and wise, with strong claims to the leadership of their people.  Yet they ruled peacefully side by side, together attending councils of the wise.  Again they both offer hospitality, but are cautious to protect their country against harm, for love both of land and of friends inside.  All the wives in Tolkien are beautiful, and all the husbands are valiant.  But not all the men are wise, nor are all women hospitable.  Celeborn and Galadriel represent together the best of Tolkien’s ideal.  They are happy and sad, serious and celebratory.  They are wise and strong, beautiful and kind.  People love them and follow them, not only in war, but also in peace.  Memory is important, and yet there is always curiosity to meet new things.  And so it ought to be in marriage.  Such I believe was Tolkien’s experience. 
 
My favorite marriage in Tolkien is one that hadn’t yet taken place.  Eowyn was independent; she was not free – not because she was a woman at home, but because she wanted things impossible for her to have.  Faramir pushed, and she took a small step away.  He pulled and she came close.  Before she knew what was happening, the simple steps were increasing in difficulty until she cried out, “My hand is ungentle!”  The princess grew frightened in the face of love and submission, though she had stood proud as the shieldmaiden of her king even against an enemy as terrible as the Lord of the Nazgul.  She cried out to one who seemed to know what he was doing, who was leading her into a place where she was less confident, where her only choice was to follow.  And the crying out was trust.  Her heart changed, or at last she understood it.  She chose freedom, stepped willingly away from her independence, and chose to love, like her partner, to see things grow well.  “Then I will wed with the White Lady,” he laughed.  She smiled her delight, and on the wall of the city their hands met and clasped, and they faced darkness and light together. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn 

Read Full Post »

I believe that congressmen, who are involved in ratifying treaties of the United States and charged with representing our country, should know history and diplomacy.  This is their job.  I hate needing to remind politicians of their job.  Nevertheless, I press on.  This is not to say that the situation in Georgia is our fault.  We did agree to admit Georgia as our ally, which Russia does not like (they being a selfish political power hoping to re-aquire the land of Georgia). 

 

Rather than the most recent war in Iraq, perhaps a better illustration of the need to proceed with wisdom in Georgia would be the conflict between Afghanistan and Russia, in which the US armed the Taliban in order to defeat the Soviets.  Certainly neither party needed us to be helping them.  However, Georgia has been advancing toward a democratic, “westernized” government and culture, despite serious economic and military opposition from its closest most powerful neighbor.  The US, because of the fundamental beliefs that make us a democracy: “endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights”, believes that these rights apply to all people, and wishes to aid the sovereign governments who share our concern to promote liberty in their own countries.  It is also strategic for us to have allies like Georgia, the Ukraine, and Poland, whence we can maintain vigil over the growing threat of Russia’s imperialism. 

 

Another good example would be World War II, which could actually have been prevented as a world war if the other superpowers in the world had stood against Hitler when he took over Austria and Czechoslavakia, citing similar reasons as Putin’s Russia now claims.  Because Hitler was undeterred in his conquest, he gained confidence and military positional advantage by which he launched his near-complete takeover of Europe.  Too much appeasement, and too many empty threats, are what allow world wars to come to fruition. 

 

Thus, the United States was acting in this prudent manner of putting out a spark rather than a raging forest fire, when we “preemptively” struck Iraq.  A little history (which it is good to know, before you judge a situation):  In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait in order to add its natural resources to the larger, but economically depleted, Iraq.  The US and a UN-supported coalition defended Kuwait.  Iraq was forced to surrender, on very favorable terms considering the nature of war.  They submitted at the time to the UN as enforcers of these terms.  When after several years Sadaam Hussein began to put his toe across the line, and found himself unchecked, he gained confidence and gradually became more and more blatant in disregarding the terms of his surrender over a decade prior.  As it became evident that he was committing atrocities and defying the UN resolutions (an act by all accounts punishable if the UN meant anything); harboring and aiding the professed terror-wielding enemies of the US and her allies; and moving towards if not already possessing the means of restarting his quest for more money and power at the cost of human lives at home and abroad, the US led the way in collecting the Coalition of the Willing and specific UN resolutions in order to redress the transgressions Sadaam Hussein’s Iraq made against international post-Gulf War agreements. 

 

The resulting war, Operation Iraqi Freedom, was so shocking and awe-ful to Sadaam that the real fighting was over in a few days.  What has taken so long in Iraq was the establishment of a democracy among a people used to oppression.  The South needed to be reconstructed, and the freed slaves equipped for life and industry after the Civil War in the United States.  Georgia needed the support and example of democracies to build its government on the true, God-fearing principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  In the case of Georgia, they have met insurgent opposition to democratic government, and have endured opposition sponsored by neighbors with ulterior motives – all very reminiscent of the situation in Iraq where Iran continued to supply and train the insurgency.  Interestingly, Putin and Ahmadinejad are themselves allies, who have no doubt consulted on tactics. 

 

Georgia, a sovereign nation, has the right to use force to suppress violent uprisings in its land.  That is what governments do.  If the government is being oppressive and abusive, that is another story, but then one wonders why most of Georgia is NOT in revolt.  (See Declaration of Independence).  I find it sad that Americans seem willing to accept ethnic differences as explanations for conflict and wanting one’s own country divided according to race all the while recognizing the great fact (which has been largely successful in its American implementation) that race has nothing to do with the value of a human life, with relationships, or with the principles of government by the people for the people.  Being of a different ethnicity than a portion of your country is no reason either to revolt against your government or to oppress your people.

 

When America broke away from the Crown, it was not a matter of race or even of disapproval of the laws so much as it was outcry against the king’s making rules and breaking them.  The charters by which America was colonized gave specific rights and powers to the colonists, which the king then usurped.  Since the Magna Carta, England had recognized that the king was not himself above the law, and Americans expected the present king to honor that.  However, when he did not, they declared their independence.  Unlike the implications some have made, the king did not immediately recognize his fault and repent, but invaded their land with violence.  By the providence of God, America was able to defeat the armies of the tyrant king, winning independence and teaching England a lesson on human rights and the nature of government that the Crown has yet to forget.  America is free not because of the benevolence of England, but because England surrendered their object in the colonies. 

 

My letters were addressed to my congressmen because, as the Constitution of the United States presently stands, they are my representatives to the world.  World leaders are not my concern beyond my own country.  I am not a globalist.  America is my nation, and her leaders are my focus. 

 

My position maintains that we were not so utterly wrong in Iraq or in Afghanistan as is popularly argued.  Weapons of Mass Destruction have been found, and there is some evidence that more may have been shipped to likeminded countries.  Good has been accomplished in Iraq and Afghanistan.  No further terrorist attacks have been perpetrated on America.  Lives have been lost, tragically, but most American lives were willingly laid on the line in service of country.  Alongside wars of history, the human toll has been remarkably small.  Peace reigns over the Middle East more than ever.  There is still violence, but there is violence in New York City, in San Francisco, and in my city, Denver.  To quote Tolkien, “It takes but one foe to breed a war…” 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

The Hobbit is being made into a major motion picture.  I’m sad.  There is a terrible fear in me that this will be like those daily cartoon spin-offs from excellent Disney movies.  All my friends tell me how necessary the story of The Hobbit is to the plot of The Lord of the Rings.  I am glad of its existence, and even glad I read The Hobbit.  There are some enchanting passages about moons and maps and elves and mountains.  Of course Tolkien’s fame and further publications were built on the success of The Hobbit, too. 

 

One part that excites me in seeing Peter Jackson’s skill at fantasy movies is to see Smaug, the dragon.  I love seeing dragons in action.  Not the silly Chinese paper ones that have hundreds of little human feet sticking out the bottom as they run in the parade.  But the dragon in Sleeping Beauty, or those in Reign of Fire, in the old Chronicles of Narnia movies…  and now The Hobbit.  What’s more, this dragon must talk.  That will be interesting. 

 

As I first pondered this one positive point of the upcoming Hobbit movie, I found myself being reproached.  “How could you be a fan of dragons?  You’re a fantasy lover, aren’t you?  Don’t you know that there is a group of Christians who reject fantasy literature because of things like dragons?”  The criticizer was also myself, so I suppose I could be as hard as I wished, in defense or offense. 

 

I think the defense began with a afore-unthought fell blow.  God used dragons in His stories.  Revelation is the most prominent example.  Though my interpretation is generally literal, I believe the dragon in Revelation is an image for a being invisible on the earth, but powerful.  But isn’t the imagery powerful?  Our imaginations are excited.  We shudder.  In most myths, the dragon is a feared and loathsome beast. 

 

God used dragons and other fantastic imagery to connect to our imaginations, which He also created.  Have you ever wondered why God gave us imagination?  Michael Card calls it “the bridge between my heart and mind.” 

 

Respecting Dr. Paleo’s reasoned position on fantasy literature, which he was so good as to share with me, the offense half of myself recovered from this powerful strike to offer further evidence (borrowed from my fellow blogger).  Why would you want to read a story in which the laws God created don’t exist? 

 

Testimonial rebuttal was provided by the defense.  When I read fiction – and fantasy especially, it is like a lens by which I can focus in on one issue.  CS Lewis wrote his Space Trilogy addressing hypothetical questions.  What if God hadn’t given Adam and Eve the choice in the garden?  Through his fantasy world in which there was no choice, I came to better understand my world where there is one.  Lord of the Rings is excellent at showing a strong line between good and evil.  There were falls, temptations, and betrayals.  But the moral right and the moral wrong were always clear.  Good guys could fight bad guys without doubting who was bad. 

 

Tolkien was Catholic, and his worldview is pervasive in his work.  Harry Potter is, I understand, also a series of fantasy books reflecting the author’s worldview.  The reason I am opposed to Harry Potter is that the book directs children to real Satanism, and employs real language from the occult.  There are other more minor issues, like the portrayal of parents and authority, that would make these books unsuitable for children. 

 

My objecting side refused to surrender the point that the two forms of fantasy are substantially different, and made another attempt at dissuading my Lord of the Rings loving side from its stand.  Don’t you have anything better to do or read? 

 

One of my best friends was aghast when I informed her that I am willing to give up my Lord of the Rings collection if the man I marry disapproves of them.  They helped form my philosophy and interests.  At this moment I do not believe God wanted me not to read them.  But it seems remotely possible that with the other characteristics and values I’m praying my husband will have, he might also disapprove of fantasy literature and even of dragons.  In which case there are a lot of things more valuable to me than my stack of Lord of the Rings books, movies, memorabilia, and games. 

 

For a black and white person like me, strong-willed and defensive, a resolution to change my mind if warranted in the future is an interesting position.  I am in a similar place regarding skirts.  I love skirts, and feel I can do almost anything in them.  But I enjoy wearing a good warm pair of jeans some days, too.  It’s always better to err on the side of excellence, isn’t it? 

 

At the end of the debate, the defensive me was winning.  That point about the Bible using a dragon to represent the manifestation of evil encouraged me.  Tolkien, at least, classifies dragons in the same way: representing embodied evil: greed and destruction and deceit.  Without familiarity with these or other mythological dragons, how could one even come close to comprehending the abhorrence intended by John in describing the devil on earth that way? 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Actually, it’s old, so old that we hardly use it.  Tolkien used it because it was old and English.  When I write about the Church so much, and am trying to emphasize original meaning instead of what the word has come to mean in our culture (I despise redefinitioning), I resort to long explanations each time I describe what happens when the people of God get together.  One can use Greek, ekklesia, or start by defining the English word, church (which has so many uses now that it is about as ineffective as love), or say assembly, meeting, gathering, or fellowshipAssembly reminds people either of six grades of public school children seated in the cafeteria, or when speaking of religion, the semi-charismatic Assembly of God denomination.    Meeting was actually used in its common sense (I have a meeting to attend) by nonconformist religious groups, and continues to be used by the Quakers.  Gathering tells you nothing about what is going on.  And fellowship indicates that people are getting together for chit-chat.  See how inadequate these words are to express the potent prescription described in the New Testament for the followers of Jesus when two or more were together. 

The first occurrence of “church” in the Bible is Matthew 16:18, where Jesus promises that on the truth Peter confessed 2 verses prior, the Church would be built, and even the gates of hell would not prevail against it.  The context is, like much of Matthew, very kingdom-focused.  As usual, the disciples were hearing Jesus to speak of an earthly kingdom.  No doubt they had in mind governments (like that described in detail in 1 Chronicles), armies, governors, judges, and councils.  The word ekklesia (translated church) was the word for the political assemblies at which the citizens would deliberate.  We might think of parliament or legislatures, or even a townhall meeting.  It could refer to any gathering of people, and was applied to religious gatherings.  Matthew 18:17, in the passage used for church discipline, Jesus indicates the church is a judicial body.  Paul goes along with this in 1 Corinthians (a great textbook on church structure, life, and leadership), when he suggests that rather than bringing “brothers” to court, they should submit to the judgment of the Church. 

All this to set up my new synonym for church, a word so out of fashion that it is very unlikely you will think of it meaning anything else.  The word is moot.  You have heard it, but you didn’t know what it meant.  It was used colloquially in the phrase “moot point,” or “moot case.”  The common use is a perversion of the original use.  A moot was a deliberative gathering, often for discussing hypothetical cases (this is the sense in which the word does not apply to church).  If something was hypothetical, it was debatable, in that there was no final word to be said on the matter.  But a culture that does not appreciate the hypothetical has transferred the phrase “moot point” to mean not worth discussing. 

JRR Tolkien used moot in his chapter on the Ents.  Their gathering was called a moot.  In this case, he blended two meanings: the newer one applied to deliberation, and the etymological one in which the word simply meant assembly.  The Online Etymology Dictionary defines moot as “a meeting, especially of freemen to discuss community affairs or mete justice.”  Its root is in a word for “encounter.” 

So a church, which is a gathering of disciples to manage the affairs of their community, to build each other up in unity and provide accountability towards godliness, could be described as a moot.  That’s just what I’m going to do. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »