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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Gene Wolfe and J. R. R. Tolkien

I have been doing my bit to fill cyberspace, with this blog, for over two years, for which set of privileges I thank God.

I frequently wonder just what I am going to post. Sometimes the timing isn't right. Sometimes I haven't had, or taken, time to polish up some topic. A few times, I just haven't posted, for various reasons. No doubt there are numerous occasions when you, my hypothetical reader, and I, would have been better off if I hadn't posted at all, but never mind.

Inspiration (or something less) often comes from what I see on someone else's blog, or on some other web page. Today is one of those times.

I subscribe to Claw of the Conciliator, which covers, like this one, a multitude of things, occasionally including fantastic literature, which is why I subscribe. The title comes from a book by Gene Wolfe. (See here for my one post -- so far -- on this great author of fantastic literature.) Wolfe's term, Conciliator, was not chosen by accident. Wolfe, who has won numerous awards from mainstream organizations concerned with excellence in fantastic literature, is a Christian. One of the aspects of his fiction is the extensive vocabulary he employs. One word, that I supposed he made up, which occurs in the book indicated, is fuligin, which means "so black that you can't really see it." It turns out that he hadn't made it up. I don't know where he got it.

A recent post on the Claw of the Conciliator blog, to my wonder and amazement, points to a web page, which consists of an article by Gene Wolfe (published with permission) on how he discovered Tolkien's writing, (here's my web page on Tolkien) and quotes a letter from Tolkien (an even greater writer of fantastic literature, also a Christian) to Wolfe. Wolfe had written Tolkien, characteristically, asking where his terms, orc and warg, had come from. Tolkien wrote back, and explains. Tolkien, in this case, at least, like Wolfe, did not make up these words, or did not make them up from nothing. He was a student of languages, and used words from ancient tongues as roots for some of his words. (He also made up his own languages, but that's another story.)

Thanks, Elliot, for the tip. Thank you, hypothetical reader, for reading!


Elliot said...

I'm glad you liked it. It is an amazing and telling connection to discover between those two, isn't it?

I'm sorry I haven't been posting more about sf/f of late!

Martin LaBar said...

At least one reader leaves the hypothetical category, and becomes real.

No need to apologize -- it's your blog!