Happy New Year’s Day, Denizens of Middle Earth!
The LOTRproject blog has a few great quotes from Tolkien’s fiction for you to read. It was such a good idea that I wanted to add three of my own from Tolkien’s own letters. The unrivaled master of fantasy’s worldview and thoughts ought to have a few ideas to inform us!
Yes, I think the orcs as real a creation as anything in ‘realistic’ fiction: your vigorous words well describe the tribe; only in real life they are on both sides, of course. For ‘romance’ has grown out of ‘allegory’. and its wars are still derived from the ‘inner war’ of allegory in which good is on one side and various modes of badness on the other. In real (exterior) life men are on both sides: which means a motley alliance of orcs, beasts, demons, plain naturally honest men, and angels. But it does make some difference who are your captains and whether they are orc-like per se! And what is it all about (or thought to be). It is even in this world possible to be (more or less) in the wrong or in the right. -J.R.R. Tolkien to his son Christopher, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien #71 Humphrey Carpenter, Ed.
Tolkien’s position on the “plotter vs. panster” scale of writing:
All I remember about the start of The Hobbit is sitting correcting School Certificate papers in the everlasting weariness of that annual task forced on impecunious academics with children. On a blank leaf I scrawled: ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ I did not and do not know why. I did nothing about it, for a long time, and for some years I got no further than the production of Thror’s map. -Tolkien, Letters #131
For some world-building, I picked the difference between men and elves.
The Children of God are thus primevally related and akin, and primevally different. Since also they are something wholly ‘other’ to the gods, in the making of which the gods played no part, they are the object of the special desire and love of the gods. These are the First-born, the Elves; and the Followers Men. The doom of the Elves is to be immortal, to love the beauty of the world, to bring it to full flower with their gifts of delicacy and perfection, to last while it lasts, never leaving it even when ‘slain’, but returning — and yet, when the Followers come, to teach them, and make way for them, to ‘fade’ as the Followers grow and absorb the life from which both proceed. The Doom (or the Gift) of Men is mortality, freedom from the the circles of the world. Since the point of view of the whole cycle is the Elvish, mortality is not explained mythically: it is a mystery of God of which no more is known than that ‘what God has purposed for Men is hidden’: a grief and envy to the immortal Elves. -Tolkien, Letters #131