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Monday, November 21, 2005

Response to comment on science in Tolkien and Lewis

On November 11th, I posted a comment on some of the science in the writing of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. The post was meant to poke gently. As I have indicated, Tolkien and Lewis are two of the writers who have most influenced me, and I honor their achievement. No human writer has created a perfect work.

I did not, but should have, indicated that I was speaking of Lewis's Narnia books, not the space trilogy.

I received three comments, which is a landslide for this blog, and I much appreciate all three. The last commenter, Jeremy Pierce, said, in part:

"Tolkien's world is not flat. It's this world in the distant past."

Sorry, but I stand by my original statement, which idea was not original with me. Tolkien's world was meant to be flat, at least in the earliest times described in the Silmarillion. (Unfortunately, I am on an extended absence from home, and didn't bring that book with me, so I am operating without full documentation here.) As I recall it, the two lights of the ancient world lit the whole earth, which would not have been possible if it had been spherical. Kristine Larsen's long, but excellent, article on the Astronomy of Middle-Earth mentions the flatness toward the end. See also this document, part VB 2. Try a Google search on Middle-Earth flat, and you will find many other references to this.

Pierce also said:

"Many famous dwarves in the lists could have been women for all we know." True, but I believe I am correct that only one was mentioned as being female, and I doubt seriously that any such famous dwarves were meant to be female by Tolkien.

Tolkien isn't the only one to have had mostly, or entirely, male dwarfs (or dwarves). As I pointed out, Lewis also does. So, for that matter, did Snow White. As I recall the tales of King Arthur, by Howard Pyle, there are quite a few dwarves there, too, and all of them were also male (but so were the knights).

Pierce also points out that Sauron had enslaved not only Mordor, but other lands, and that these were supposed to have supplied Mordor (or, as he says, perhaps the supplying was done by evil magic of Sauron). Pierce is correct. However, my point, which was not well made, was that it seemed to me that Tolkien had fictionally amassed such a large army, including some large beings that would have required lots of provender, and in such an isolated place, that provisioning from afar by horse and wagon train, or some such, doesn't really seem realistic.

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