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NellasTaralom
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Post Narrative Modes
on: April 26, 2009 08:06
So, I've been thinking alot about Tolkien's narration in the Lord of the Rings. Tolkien uses the omniscient narrative style, in which he accesses the words, thoughts, emotions, etc. of ALL his characters. He knows all the facts, events, motives, actions...everything.

However, what saddens me a little is that we readers are not granted access to all of his characters' inner thoughts, which makes me feel a bit cut off from those characters.

For example, with the character of Frodo, we know not only Frodo's actions, but also his thoughts. "Frodo lay down again. He felt too comfortable and peaceful to argue, and in any case he did not think he would get the better of an argument." (LotR Book 2, Chapter 1: Many Meetings)

In contrast, Tolkien does not grant us access to the inner thoughts of many characters, including Theoden and Galadriel (correct me if I'm wrong). Tolkien simply narrates their actions.
Indeed, I think the first time Tolkien enters the thoughts of Legolas (who definitely is a main character) is in Book 2 of Fellowship, Chapter 9: "The heart of Legolas was running under the stars of a summer night in some northern glade amid the beech-woods.." and this is near the end of the Fellowship book. Rarely, if at all, do we know the thoughts of Gandalf, or Eowyn and Eomer....or even Aragorn, come to think of it. (does anyone know of a passage where the narration enters Aragorn's thoughts?)

For myself, I feel somewhat cut off from those characters which we only read about objectively. I realize that with such a vast scope and large cast of characters, it might be difficult for Tolkien to write the thoughts or all his characters. But just the same, I wish he had. Has anyone else given this some thought while reading, and does it slightly bother anyone but me???
Ilandir
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Post RE: Narrative Modes
on: April 26, 2009 08:34
However, what saddens me a little is that we readers are not granted access to all of his characters' inner thoughts, which makes me feel a bit cut off from those characters.


I know what you mean but I guess that's part of the style and scope of LOTR. Probably, if we were to know all the characters' inner thoughts, we wouldn't be able to enjoy LOTR as it is supposed to be enjoyed.

Also, I think it's a question of space and constraints. Too much information would render the flow of the story quite boring and heavy. The book is as good as it is ... balanced in the sense that it gives you alot, but at the same time leaves you wondering!
Erucenindë
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Post RE: Narrative Modes
on: April 26, 2009 09:42
obviously the good point of it being rather large has already been said.

This is my point: Tolkien couldn't put everything in there, so he let us know some of their thoughts indirectly. We can guess at them because of their actions or words. at least, this is what i think.
oiotari
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Post RE: Narrative Modes
on: April 26, 2009 04:08
In my oppinion a book that gives you EVERYTHING isn't nearly as good as one that makes you fill a bit in

plus, letting you in on every character's thoughts may have given some of the plot away too early
heri_sinyë
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Post RE: Narrative Modes
on: April 27, 2009 02:46
What Tolkien writes is a kind of epic novel. In that kind of stories the characters' thoughts are usually not described as detailed as in other stories (like in Dostoevsky's realist novels). But usually we can guess what the characters are thinking by their actions and their history.
For example, we know that Galadriel once experienced all the glory of the undying lands and her kindred, and we can therefore understand it must be hard for her to let her people diminish and become a mere memory of what they were, yet we see through her actions that she understands that it is their fate and the only right thing to do. I also think her pride wouldn't let her surrender to a temptation such as the Ring. So even though Tolkien doesn't describe what passes through her mind, I think we have a great chance of knowing it anyway.
This is, I think, one of the best things about Tolkien's writing: he insinuates things instead of crying them out loud.
Merides
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Post RE: Narrative Modes
on: April 30, 2009 05:30
Here's something to keep in mind when thinking about the narrative modes of The Lord of the Rings- Tolkien wrote that he 'translated' the story from The Red Book of Westmarch, which contained both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as written by Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, and completed by Samwise Gamgee.

Going along with this supposition, as Tolkien wanted, one can assume the following things about LotR's narrative modes:

-Frodo wrote the Red Book of Westmarch, following his own adventures.
-Frodo would have asked for input/interviews from the remaining Fellowship, as well as others (e.g. Arwen, Faramir, etc.)
-When writing the Red Book of Westmarch, Frodo would have had his own thought processes, but very little of his friends'.

I hope this helps clarify why there are very few thoughts from any characters other than Frodo.
NellasTaralom
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Post RE: Narrative Modes
on: April 30, 2009 04:54
My goodness! You're quite right of course I'd didn't think about that.

Frodo wrote the Red Book of Westmarch, following his own adventures.
-Frodo would have asked for input/interviews from the remaining Fellowship, as well as others (e.g. Arwen, Faramir, etc.)
-When writing the Red Book of Westmarch, Frodo would have had his own thought processes, but very little of his friends'.


That makes sense. Whenever the Hobbit's are in the scene, it's usually told from Frodo's persective, which makes sense, as he is the main character and the writer of the story.

I always wondered why, as Frodo and Sam get closer to Mount Doom, the narration is increasingly from Sam's point of view. Now I understand! Frodo was becoming so consumed with the Ring, that even if he DID remember details to write about for the book, they would be painful to recall and would mostly be centered on the Ring: Frodo was losing touch with the waking world. Ahhhhhhh now I understand.

Obviously, whenever there is a Hobbit present, the scene is told from his perspective, mostly. (Like when the Rohirrim ride to Mundburg=mostly Merry's perspective, for instance)

I also wondered why, when Aragorn and the Dunedain go through the Paths of the Dead, Tolkien chose to switch into Gimli mode. Maybe the writer (Tolkien/Frodo) thought Gimli's point of view would be the most interesting and.....well, sensible to use.

The Paths of the Dead wouldn't be very interesting from Aragorn or Legolas' view, because they were not afraid. The writer wouldn't have been able to relate how frightening it was in the darkness of the Paths of the Dead had that passage been told from their perspectives....I'm off on a tangent now, but anyways Thanks, Merides! What good food for thought you gave me...
Celebrian
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Post RE: Narrative Modes
on: April 30, 2009 05:22
I agree with what has already been said. In fact, I was going to post pretty much what Merides already said. Frodo spent a lot of time talking to his friends about their experiences and took great pains to write as accurate an account of their adventures as he possibly could. I always assumed it was Gimli who told him about the Paths of the Dead and that's why Frodo wrote his view of it.
cirdaneth
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Post RE: Narrative Modes
on: November 06, 2010 02:18
Bump!
tarcolan
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Post RE: Narrative Modes
on: November 06, 2010 02:10
Ouch!
There's a lot of Lo and Beholding later on as well, probably taken from the Gondorian point of view. I agree with Ilandir though, Tolkien has to keep the story going and we're told enough about the characters to imagine their point of view. Or rather Frodo tells us. Sometimes though a writer has to go omniscient. It's about balance in the end, suspending the reader's disbelief.
LadyBeruthiel
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Post RE: Narrative Modes
on: November 09, 2010 04:31
Just an additional thought: The hobbits are really the central characters in LOTR. They represent (among other things) the courage and strength that ordinary "little" people can muster in time of need, especially, in Tolkien's view, ordinary Englishmen. So it makes sense that the story should be told largely from the hobbits' point of view.
_Mebedir_
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Post RE: Narrative Modes
on: November 29, 2010 09:28
This also might explain why the Silmarillion feels so distant from most of it's characters, and written so sparingly in places. It was put together by Bilbo at Rivendell (at least to my knowledge it was), using nothing more than memories of the surviving elves and what little reference material he could find. There would be little chance of finding out the thoughts or feelings of the characters from the time, and the book feels as if it's being written out of memories of a distant past.
LadyBeruthiel
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Post RE: Narrative Modes
on: November 30, 2010 04:38
Good point, Mebedir, and probably a good reason why I could never get into the Silmarillion. *dons English Professor's mortarboard* That is called the objective or neutral point of view. *doffs mortarboard* I wonder why Tolkien chose it? Reading about characters with no direct insight into their minds is rather dull.
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