University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The Arts Collection

Page View

Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology
(1969)

Kilby, Clyde S.
[Editorial comment: the lost myth],   pp. [unnumbered]-163 PDF (10.1 MB)


Page 161

look at their past, a past that is
congenitally rooted and in which
consciousness and conscience are coeval.
Then can one fail to breathe deeply of
the glory and mystery of nature in
the story? Just to mention Lothlorien is to
evoke beatitude. Nature there and
elsewhere is "inhabited." This is especially
true of trees. The talking trees called
Ents become characters in their own
right. Frodo put his hand on one of the
great mallorn trees in Lothlorien
and suddenly realized that he had never
before understood "the feel and texture of a
tree's skin and of the life within it.
He felt delight in wood and the touch of
it, neither as forester nor as carpenter; it
was the delight of the living tree itself."
The mystery of seeds and of growth are
represented by Galadriel's gift of
a mallorn seed and the soft gray dust that
caused all other trees quickly to repossess
the Shire after Frodo and Sam's return.
Lewis points out that reading about
enchanted trees gives real trees an
enchanted quality. It is so in this story.
The fragrant grass filled with star-shaped
yellow eleanor and the pale niphredil
in timeless Lothlorien works its own magic,
as does Aragorn's discovery in the
darkness, by its sweet and pungent odor,
of the herb athelas for the healing of
Frodo's wound from the Ringwraiths.
This herb, we are told, had been brought
to Middle-earth from Numenor. Its
existence was known to very few people, a
suggestion perhaps that the essential
contact with the perduring good earth is now
mostly lost to men. The great horse
Shadowfax bears almost a talking relation
with Aragorn, and in many other ways
the substantial existence of nature in its own
right is manifest in the Rings.
And again, how thoroughly the principle
of coinherence is exemplified in Tolkien's
story. One of the elves in Lothlorien
remarks that "in nothing is the power of the
Dark Lord more clearly shown than in
the estrangement that divides those who
still oppose him." The fellowship of
the Ring consists of a wizard, an elf, a
dwarf, four hobbits and two men, each with
his own peculiarities and strengths
yet all moving together in the
accomplishment of a single good
purpose. It is a case, I think, suggesting
the truth of Lewis's remark that democracy
is not a process of making people equal
but enabling clearly unequal people
to live amicably together. One of the
finest touches, I think, occurs upon the
demand that Gimli the dwarf be
blindfolded as he walks through Lothlorien.
When Gimli refuses and an impasse seems
upon them, Aragorn suggests that all
be blindfolded and it is done. All suffer for
one, and later when the blindfolds are
removed they are repaid by a great
burst of glory. Williams's coinherence
and exchange are illustrated.
At a time when ancient customs of courtesy
and ceremony are about as obsolete as
dinosaurs, one of the most appealing
elements of the Rings is the practice of such
customs. We recall the order of the
gatherings at Rivendell and Minas Tirith
as well as the epochal custom of
gift-giving as exemplified in Galadriel's
gifts to the fellowship. Gift-giving where
the gift contains the giver, as in
Galadriel's case, is still one of the
significances of our lives, though
shoddiness of sentiment and
commercialism have trepanned the
larger portion of it. The courtesy of King
Aragorn to his lowly friends Frodo and Sam
in seating them beside him on his throne
becomes more than a simple incident
in the story.
There is also in the Rings a courtesy of sex
that, though often noted by its absence
today, nevertheless still echoes resonantly
at some deep level of our being. Aragorn
waited a fantastically long time for
Arwen Evenstar, but then their
marriage bore all the more meaning and
depth for it. Both Sam and Gimli found
in Galadriel not simply a beautiful woman
but a deeply impelling symbol of courtesy
and dignity.
Lastly we can say that the Rings appears
to be one of the genuinely imaginative
works of mankind. Its 1200 pages,
including over a hundred pages of footnotes
which are themselves imaginatively
integral, is less an example of
imagination than it simply is imagination.
Paul Ricoeur says that by means of
imagination man recognizes his real
existence and exercises a metaphysical
prophecy of things possible to him.
Imagination, said Einstein, is "more
161   1
i


Go up to Top of Page