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Snowy the Sane Fangirl
To some degree
Wed Sep 5, 2018 3:37am

The scope of the essay I was writing was bigger than that, so I touched on it only briefly.

You make some good points, but I would like to add an additional observation: "magic" in The Lord of the Rings is almost exclusively a Hobbit word. Hobbits throw it around like cheap birthday presents, but almost no one else uses it, except for Gandalf and Aragorn occasionally when talking to Hobbits. The only non-Hobbits who seem to use the word are the Men of Bree, and that's only vaguely conferred in the collective sense: "[Pippin and Sam] found themselves left alone in a corner, and eyed darkly and doubtfully from a distance. It was plain that many people regarded them as the companions of a travelling magician of unknown powers and purpose" (emphasis mine).

Even very superstitious men who distrust what they don't understand use different words; consider Boromir's doubts about Lothlorien and Galadriel. "But of that perilous land we have heard in Gondor, and it is said that few come out who once go in; and of that few none have escaped unscathed." And later: "I do not feel too sure of this Elvish Lady and her purposes." Magic, obviously, is what Boromir is afraid of; power he doesn't understand and can't control. But he never uses that word, and this, I think is an intentional choice on Tolkien's part.

What is this choice? Maybe that "magic" as a catch-all phrase for supernatural power is a phrase only used by people who are separated from it and have little to no experience with it and don't want experience with it? (Though some magic in Tolkien's work is arguably not really supernatural.) Or maybe not. I don't know for sure, but I am sure a point is being made.

On a tangentially related note, it's worth considering that Tolkien once stated that he had doubts about using the word "wizard" to describe Gandalf and Saruman. He said he preferred the word "Istari", which is, of course, a word that he made up. This isn't really relevant, besides "wizard" being a word usually closely related to "magic".

  • So that last one.Huinesoron, Fri Aug 24 4:48am
    Do you discuss what Tolkien actually means when he says 'magic'? There's some very telling quotes in the Lothlorien chapters, starting with this from Galadriel: "[The Mirror] is what your folk would... more
    • To some degree — Snowy the Sane Fangirl, Wed Sep 5 3:37am
    • It seems to me that Tolkien has a very West African attitude towards magic, wherein magic is created by making things rather than saying words. So the answer to your obviously-rhetorical question... more
      • Not so rhetorical.Huinesoron, Fri Aug 24 10:32am
        Pippin definitely considers the cloaks of Lorien magic; just as definitely, the elves of that wood don't. So the question 'are they magic' has a very Elvish answer - 'both yes and no'. To the elves,... more
      • Stupid HTML... (nm)Scapegrace, Fri Aug 24 9:55am
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