Thursday, April 19, 2012

Whatever Happened to the Blue Wizards?

The Blue Wizard of Oz asked, "How would you rate Tolkien's poetry?"
It sucks.  No, wait a minute.  I just said that to get a laugh.  The Pound snob within me says that, but I love a lot of Tolkien's poetry, and I find it integral to The Lord of the Rings which I adore.  I particularly admire his ability to write poems in languages he himself created.

I just finished teaching The Lord of the Rings again last month, and we had a blast.  I got switched to a new classroom last summer, and I grumbled about it, but I did like the fact the I now had room for a bookshelf dedicated to Tolkien.  I have to the right of my desk beneath my large map of Middle Earth which my wife bought me years ago.  My old principal had a classroom set of The Hobbit, so I have 30 plus copies of The Hobbit which I have taught at least three times.  (I look forward to the new film, and I wonder if they will show the White Council attacking Dol Guldur.)

Tolkien seems to have little interest in post-Swinburnean developments in English poetry, but so what?  He had steeped himself in Medaeval poetry in a variety of languages, and that enabled him to build an unparalleled linguistic verisimilitude into his writing.  He wrote that he loathed allegory (perhaps a dig at C. S. Lewis) and that he preferred history, even feigned history.  His linguistic creativity enabled him to create his multi-layered feigned history of peoples with a vital oral poetry tradition.

I also taught his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight a few years ago, which I enjoyed.


  1. Thanks for the answer. I find Tolkien a brilliant describer of things. I heard he wrote The Hobbit and the Rings trilogy because he invented a language and wanted to give it a context. I didn't care for the films that much though a lot of people appreciated them. Probably reached a wider audience than the books. I don't remember any poetry in the films.

  2. Have to say that I can relate to Tolkien denigrating allegory. Though I don't loath it, I do find it quite annoying at times. Used to have girlfriends in my teens who would interpret secret messages of a negative nature directed at them when I put certain songs on the stereo. I prefer direct communication, and feel people would be happier and less paranoid if they took more things at face value. However, despite Tolkien's loathing, it seems much of the Ring oeuvre lends itself to allegory. Leary discusses metaphors in Tolkien in "High Priest." I thought it pretty cool when I found out that Tolkien and C.S. Lewis hung out together as friends, and even wrote a book together called, "The Gift of Friendship." Thought this because I read the Narnia books 3 times completely from ages 10-12 then got into the Ringlore at 14 reading those books 3 times the next 3 years. It seemed like Narnia became a natural precursor before graduating to the "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings" I later read that Narnia supposedly contained Christian symbolism which I completely failed to see despite vigorous attempts to indoctrinate me into the Catholic doomsday cult by my loving progenitors. Probably too young at the time. Aslan just seemed like a really cool talking lion, to me.

  3. I always thought Tolkien's comment about hating allegory was odd, as it could be seen as a slam at his bud C.S. Lewis, as Eric points out.

    I read "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" when I was older than Oz Fritz, and I hated the obvious allegory of the talking lion. It put me off reading any more of the books.

  4. Another question: I thought it was charming that "An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson" included a poem written for your wife. Did she like the poem? Will you post one of your more recent poems?

  5. Meant to say I'm kind of with Oz on the movies. I've read the trilogy over and over again but by the third movie, I was kind of indifferent about the films. I liked the way Robert Plant would slip in references in the Led Zep lyrics.

  6. A wild guess regarding the oddness of Tolkien's comment as I don't know the context - maybe he meant to tease Lewis or had a different reason other than the obvious.

    The joy of naïveté ... I still don't get what the talking lion symbolizes. Now if it had been a talking dog ... Here's hoping the Hobbit film has more depth.