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Old 12-30-2004, 05:06 PM   #1
Fordim Hedgethistle
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Are you a better person?

OK, here’s a question: has reading (and/or re-reading, and re-reading…) The Lord of the Rings made you a “better person”? The question is often raised about the ‘good’ of reading, but I wonder if we can raise it more specifically in connection with Tolkien’s created world.

I know that for myself, reading these works has certainly given me a lot of pleasure and valuable insight over the years. I feel better when I read them, or think about them, or discuss them (and sometimes even when I teach them! ) but am I actually better? Am I improved, or ‘more’ than I was before I read them? And if so, is the effect cumulative – do I get “better” the more attention I pay to this story?

To be entirely honest, I don’t really have the answers to these questions. I’d like to think that I have gained something valuable from the experience of Middle-earth: valuable to myself and to others. I have certainly thought about the ideas raised in the story, and have come to value its view of the world, even though I do not fully share that view. So I suppose I am “more” than I was in the sense that I have a new point of view – one that was not my own, but which I gained through experiencing the story. I suspect that this is part of what the Professor meant when he wrote about “recovery” and the ‘usefulness’ of fantasy.

At any rate, what about everyone else? Are you better for having read the story? If so, in what ways?
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Old 12-30-2004, 06:06 PM   #2
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Closely related thread: Mister Underhill's LOTR and your Weltanschauung.
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Old 12-30-2004, 06:38 PM   #3
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1420!

I made this necklace, with WWED, What Would Elrond do? Whenever I'm in a stuck I just look at the necklace, and then decide what would elrond do. Ok, sorry for the sarcasm, I'll get serious.

I wouldn't say it made me a better person, I agree with many of Tolkien's views, and so it's given me insight to the world, and world issues. Seeing that Tolkien (and not only him that's influenced me but also Orwell), both were satiric writers, and wrote a lot about the nature of humans.

That doesn't mean I'm some raving pessimistic misanthrope like Denethor, but it's simply given me insight to our human self, and our society. But, I wouldn't say I became a better spiritual, or morally good man because of LOTR, if that's what you are looking for.
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Old 12-30-2004, 06:47 PM   #4
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The recently late Susan Sontag said that reading literature educates our feelings. As opposed to our minds, I suppose. Whether she was right or not, and whether that is too limiting, I leave to each of our interpretation. As far as it goes, I think she has a point that is related (in my own mind at least) to Tolkien's own theory of Escape, Recovery, and Consolation.

As for me, personally, it would be hard to say since I've lived with Tolkien's Middle Earth as part of who I am since I was 8 (36 years for anyone counting!).

I like to imagine that I would be a poor bankrupt romantic fool without having read Tolkien (and Lewis), instead of the enriched romantic fool that I am.
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Old 12-30-2004, 07:09 PM   #5
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Am I improved, or ‘more’ than I was before I read them? And if so, is the effect cumulative – do I get “better” the more attention I pay to this story?
I wouldn't say that LotR has made anyone "better" per say. Maybe made them aware of such things as nobility and honour and truth, but, in the end, it's up to them to act upon their newfound discovery. But I believe I am merely nitpicking...

As for getting "better" every time I read LotR, I don't really think that is possible. A book can only give so much.
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Old 12-30-2004, 07:23 PM   #6
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To prove it either way, one should be able to divide the person to see what are the differences in both branches of development. Say, I may not say I'm better person for reading Tolkien, for I do not know what would have come out of me if I haven't - I have only one 'me' to judge, the one who've read it, and I am what I am, if you follow my meaning, kind sirs and ladies.

I may feel I am, but that's subjective. Though I do feel I am.

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I like to imagine that I would be a poor bankrupt romantic fool without having read Tolkien (and Lewis), instead of the enriched romantic fool that I am.
Great quote, oh Bard. But note the wording - lmp 'likes to imagine' but he does not know for sure.

Same with yours truly
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Old 12-31-2004, 12:23 AM   #7
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Fordim,

An interesting question, but I think it's that word "better" that we are all tripping over.

If you had asked for a discussion of what I had gathered from the book--either intellectually or emotionally, I would probably be able to speak to that. Even then, there wouldn't be one answer set in stone, but a variety of responses. I've found that as my life goes forward, my situation changes and my response to various pieces of literature also changes. What I took from LotR at age 17, or age 35, is not identical to what I see there today. I am left with differing images and impressions, and find myself constantly noticing new things.

"Better" implies an overall assessment of myself as a person that I simply can't make. The closest I can come is to say that, without LotR, certain aspects of my life might have been different. It was one of a small group of books that led me forward on a particular path: towards an interest in medieval literature and thought, towards living in Great Britain for a number of years and the eventual pursuit of several academic degrees, and, more recently, to take up writing again. At other times, I found the book gave me "nourishment" of spirit in particular junctures of life when things were not going well.

But as to whether I am a "better" person, I have no idea. Perhaps if I hadn't been chasing after faerie, I would have become a world renown medical doctor and discovered a cure for some deadly disease . Seriously, I will leave such a broad assessment to the wisdom of providence.

Strangely, I find myself turning this question inside out. Was Frodo Baggins a "better" Hobbit because he became the Ringbearer? After all he had a series of amazing encounters with creatures of all kinds and learned many new things (just as we do from reading the books), but was he really a "better" Hobbit at the end of the tale? I don't think I can answer this, any more than I can answer the question in relation to myself. There are too many vagaries in both situations to come up with a sensible answer, I fear.
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Old 12-31-2004, 02:42 AM   #8
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Am I a better person? That's quite difficult to answer for two reasons: firstly, it's hard to judge yourself in quite that way objectively, so I can only really answer subjectively; and secondly, it was such a long time ago that I first read LotR, that I find it hard to remember what I was like before then! But I did read it at a very important stage in my life and I don;t doubt it was one of the many many things which were affecting and influencing me. I read it as I entered my teenage years, that time when we are all engaged in the struggle to define ourselves and find our place in the world. And I also found a place in Middle Earth. Those years are the perfect years to discover Tolkien, I think, as he gives us not only a refuge from the turmoils we go through, but he has a profound influence.

As I said elsewhere yesterday, I have always been fascinated by history, due in no small measure to my parents' gift of that enthusiasm, but after reading LotR I developed the need to discover more about our ancient history, where we came from and the significance of what remains. At that age I was becoming more aware of the world around me as I tried to find my 'place' within it, rather than just my place within my family (which is what our childhood usually consists of) and part of that discovery was done with the thoughts of Ents and Hobbits and Elves in my head, and I developed a deeper appreciation of nature.

As Child says in her wise words here:

Quote:
Perhaps if I hadn't been chasing after faerie, I would have become a world renown medical doctor and discovered a cure for some deadly disease . Seriously, I will leave such a broad assessment to the wisdom of providence.
Maybe I would have followed a different path in life if I had not read Tolkien. At that time I was about to decide on what to specialise in at school, and this decision would affect my life. Instead of taking sciences as my father had hoped I might, I took humanities. I would have found it impossible to decide (I was a bit of a Hermione Granger, wanting to learn everything ) if I hadn't been influenced by Tolkien. And eventually his influence led me to daring to apply for Oxford, quite outrageous considering my humble background. I developed an interest in words and language, in poetry, in myth and the myriad of religious and philosophical possibilities.

I would say, all in all, that the act of fate that day when I sneaked into my brother's room and stole his books led me ultimately to becoming a questioning person, often filled with a sense of wonder and magic, and that one act has now led me to much, much more, of such significance that I struggle to comprehend it. If this makes me a better person I don't know, but it certainly makes me a much happier person.
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Old 12-31-2004, 11:49 AM   #9
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Pipe On the other hand.....

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OK, here’s a question: has reading (and/or re-reading, and re-reading…) The Lord of the Rings made you a “better person”?
- Fordim

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Maybe made them aware of such things as nobility and honour and truth, but, in the end, it's up to them to act upon their newfound discovery.
- Imladris

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I may feel I am, but that's subjective. Though I do feel I am.
- Heren Istarion

Well, yes, these seem like the humble and objective answers we expect. But I am put in mind of Smith of Wootton Major, in which Smith and little Tim are changed directly by Faërie, and Nokes and Smith's whole family are changed indirectly. Do I equate LotR with Faërie? Perhaps it's as close as you and I can get to experiencing it. The first thing I notice is that, contrary to what Imladris says, and what I thought (and still think) to be a reasonable position to take, the changes that happen to Smith and little Tim happen to them, will they or nil they. None of us, of course, has eaten a piece of cake with a Faërie star in it, but is not Secondarily Believing Middle Earth comparable? Have we not indeed been changed by our experiences? Has it not been for the better?

I compliment us all on our humility, trying hard not to take undue credit to ourselves for good change, but perhaps Fordim is speaking more of the power of the books, and not so much our own limited powers to change ourselves.

So, I'll restate Fordim's question with examples and in the rhetorical negative:

Have you not developed a deeper love of Trees through reading LotR?

Have you not been inspired to write about beautiful things through reading LotR?

Have you not had your eyes opened to the beauty of people different from yourselves through reading LotR?

The above list could go on and on, but perhaps you get my drift. It's an aspect of true humility to acknowledge the positive change in oneself, as well as our indebtedness to a good person or good book such as LotR.
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Old 12-31-2004, 01:54 PM   #10
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It's quite interesting to think about. For I used to believe that I had become a better person since reading Tolkien's books, but now I am not sure.

Mainly because it was tied in with such themes as honour and respect and meaning. Especially meaning, and I think this really shone through in The Silmarillion. When I think about it, I wonder why a person with such little respect for religion gets so 'into' Tolkien's story.

My reading of the book slightly coincided with my 'coming of age', so to speak. I first read it at the age of 17, and now 3-4 years later, I am finally quite happy and comfortable with myself. I used to think that The Lord of the Rings had had a big effect on me, but now I can realise that I still do things which may be rather disagreeable to other Tolkien fans! I now think that Tolkien's books were rather a small part of the big picture that is my outlook.


*To note, and I am sorry about the lack of a link, but I am reminded now of mark12_30's 'High: Purged of the Gross' thread.*
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Old 12-31-2004, 08:39 PM   #11
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You know, now that I think about it, I think it has made me a better person.
As lame as it sounds, I often find myself think things like: Aragorn wouldn`t be teasing his siblings, or Faramir dosen`t complain to his parents.
I think LotR has helped me because subconsciously, I think I am trying to be like the characters.

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Old 01-01-2005, 09:48 PM   #12
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Hmmm, tough question. I guess you really have to define what you mean by "better".

It has definitely improved me in the linguistic / vocab department. I'm no Elvish scholar (I got as far as plurals and threw my hands up in defeat), but the archaic language of LotR and The Silmarillion (I haven't read anything else) have helped me to understand my own language a little better. And it makes Shakespere (sp?) a cinch!

It also has given me a broader outlook on life. It's almost become a game to me, to wonder if 'they' would do a certain thing the same in Middle-earth! I see things now that I wouldn't have before, and am able to look at something and say, 'that makes sense' or 'that's just a cultural thing'. I also (to a much lesser extent!) do what Nimrodel_9 does, say (subcontiously) to myself, '[insert character here] wouldn't approve of what I'm about to do'. But I've only done that once or twice!

It also has opened my eyes much more to mankind's blatant disregard to the Earth and nature. Especially the Elves' attitute toward nature, has made me look at our own and say, 'wow, this is wrong! We're really screwing ourselves up by doing that!' It's stupid, really, how we try to conquer nature instead of just working with it.

Other than that, it's just a good story. I'm not even going to touch on the whole 'I could've been a brilliant medical doctor' issue that Child of the 7th Age raised, but I've experienced no epiphony while reading these books, they haven't inspired me to go out and take archery lessons or anything, and they certainly haven't affected me spiritually.
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Old 01-01-2005, 09:53 PM   #13
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Silmaril

Quote:
Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
Say, I may not say I'm better person for reading Tolkien, for I do not know what would have come out of me if I haven't - I have only one 'me' to judge, the one who've read it, and I am what I am, if you follow my meaning, kind sirs and ladies.
*nods head in agreement* There is no way we can know what would have happened...there is only what is happening for us to deal with. Can we then really say that we are "better" now that we have read the books? That the changes brought upon by our knowledge of Middle Earth are more acceptable than how life would have been without it?

Then again, I for one am glad I have heard my schoolmates talking about this "Lord of the Rings" book that will be rendered in the silverscreen. Because of this, I have a more passionate love of reading. I have somehow learned to put my thoughts into words. And I have realized that deep inside, I am a true geek, and that I should be proud of it.

Another thing, I have somehow gained insight on how to deal with certain situations. One character that comes swiftly to mind when I think about my life is Eowyn. Maybe in some way the fact that we have dealt with a more-or-less similar "problem" has strengthened me...silly as it might sound, I have realized that I am not the only person in the world going through that experience. (That's how real LotR has been to me.) It does not mean, though, that I look to the books for the proper way to live life or turn it into my personal guidebook. It just somehow feels good that you read something reflective of yourself in a work of fiction.

So am I a "better" person because of the books? I do not know, but they have been so integrated in me that taking them away might tear me into pieces, if taking them away is ever possible.
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Old 01-02-2005, 06:19 PM   #14
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Silmaril ...can of worms?...

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It also has opened my eyes much more to mankind's blatant disregard to the Earth and nature. Especially the Elves' attitute toward nature, has made me look at our own and say, 'wow, this is wrong! We're really screwing ourselves up by doing that!'
Quote:
and they certainly haven't affected me spiritually.
You must mean "spiritually" in a strictly religious sense, because the "opened eyes" and having been made to look and say "this is wrong", are spiritual responses, don't you think?
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Old 01-02-2005, 07:07 PM   #15
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Thank you all for the very intriguing responses to my rather consciously 'loaded' question. In particular, thanks to lmp for really bringing out the central issue of "humility" here. As I read through the posts it's interesting to note that pretty much everyone is saying "Yes, I am better for having read the book" but no-one wants to do anything so lofty (or so flaky) as to indulge in self-congratulatory celebrations of how great we've all become.

I, for one, firmly believe in the educative and improving nature of all reading acts, if these acts are undertaken in intelligence and with an open mind. Such an approach, when in response to a text as rewarding as LotR, cannot be anything but a Good Thing.

I am a better person for having read LotR. It has opened my mind, as I said above, to a point of view different from my own. It has given me endless hours of pleasure. It has helped me make any number of improving friendships with other people who love the book as I do (most of them here at the Downs). I don't think that me admitting this is any lack of humility on my part (at least, I hope not) quite the reverse -- I think that admitting to being improved by a book is acknowlegement of all the ways in which I can be improved.

But this leads me to more questions: I am being improved by the book, or am I improving myself in response to the book? Is there a specific kind of Middle-earth improvement that I cannot gain from any other book, or is it merely one pathway among many to the same place? Are those of us who are made better by the book, or who better ourselves in resonse to the book, better in the same way? Is there a bit of Tolkien in all of us, or are we just rising to a challenge presented by the book in our own unique ways?
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Old 01-02-2005, 07:46 PM   #16
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Silmaril Hmm...

I think I tend to take on traits of certain characters, especially those characters that I particularly admire (e.g. Eowyn). As for 'better', though, I'm not sure. Probably, but since I have no idea where I'd be if I hadn't read LotR, I can't tell for sure. Besides that, any future that we "see" is only a future that might be. What we are is what we are, and, for good or ill, we can't change it; we can change what we choose to become.


Well, that was unusually 'deep' for me.... Strange, I'm not usually like that.... Must've been something about your questions, Fordim....
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Old 01-02-2005, 07:53 PM   #17
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Tolkien

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Is there a specific kind of Middle-earth improvement that I cannot gain from any other book, or is it merely one pathway among many to the same place?
Eucatastrophe. Perhaps it exists in other books, but I haven't been affected by this in other books as I have in LotR. This is one way in which I became better than I was. I had given way to despair (for various reasons that are not to the point), and partly through the book, and partly through a certain BD discussion thread, I was reminded of the hope in LotR, that some kind of good can come out of seemingly insurmountable evil. Hope has been a re-starting point for a personal renaissance of the spirit.

Quote:
Are those of us who are made better by the book, or who better ourselves in response to the book, better in the same way?
In part yes, in part no. The former is passive, something that happens to us, whereas the latter is something we do ourselves. That has to account for some difference. Don't you think that being made better (a realization), must precede choosing to be better (conscious action)?

Quote:
Is there a bit of Tolkien in all of us, or are we just rising to a challenge presented by the book in our own unique ways?
There's a level at which, obviously, there's a bit of Tolkien in all of us, in that we share humanity; but I think you're shooting for something more specific. There seems to me to be a lot of middle ground between your either and or in this question. Might you clarify it?
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Old 01-02-2005, 09:23 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
You must mean "spiritually" in a strictly religious sense, because the "opened eyes" and having been made to look and say "this is wrong", are spiritual responses, don't you think?
Oops! Yes, I guess I did. I'm not into anything "new age", so to me "spiritually" means "religion". I thought being affected "spiritually" meant being more religious because of, I don't know, seeing the way the Valar and Illuvatar interacted with the peoples of Arda? Or becoming not-so-religious because of the role of the Valar et co. making me more inclined to view all religions, including real ones, as just another work of myth? It seems stupid, really, but that's the first thing that popped into my mind. I didn't really examine the thought that much, I was too worried about the nature thing. Sorry!
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Old 01-02-2005, 10:38 PM   #19
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Pipe breaking news!!!...No, just the usual...

Not really. No 'major primetime newsblock' changes...

But, at the age of 11, I soon learned that not all hobbits were like Bilbo , and that there were many different types of people with many different challenges to face.



I hope that counts...

I think there's more but, I might have to have a memory meeting with my eleven-year-old self...

~Ka~
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Old 01-03-2005, 01:47 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim
Is there a bit of Tolkien in all of us, or are we just rising to a challenge presented by the book in our own unique ways?
I have to pull out Fordim's question here because it's such a good one. I've been thinking about this a fair bit lately, and whether there is indeed some common characteristic shared by Tolkien fans. By Tolkien fans, I don't mean someone who has read the books and purely enjoyed them, I mean Tolkien fans like myself who take delight in delving deeply into the texts, discussing them and coming up with mad ideas and theories, i.e. someone fan enough to be a member of a site like this.

We are all different, and while some of us respond most to the linguistic elements, some of us look for spiritual/religious significance, and I often look for echoes to folklore and history. But what unites us all, surely, is the love of detail?

Tolkien was himself very much concerned with detail. He was a philologist and an academic, hence professionally required to be concerned with seemingly tiny details, and his work is literally crammed with details and references, so many that you could easily spend your whole life searching these out, as indeed many of us have done. Do we all love detail? Yes, we might all be entirely capable of seeing the 'bigger picture' as t'were, but I think, deep inside of all of us, there's something of the philologist, the theologian, the mathematician, even the pedant (I admit it, I can be one quite often ). We all bring somthing unique to the books, but I think they do indeed appeal to that obsessive streak within us all.
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Old 01-03-2005, 05:06 PM   #21
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I doubt I became an overall better person (I just degenerate with age), but in a more specific way, I think reading Tolkien helped me become a better writer.

I've had the chance to closely examine what it is I like about his works, like the capacity for wonder, for example. I think it got through to my head that "serious" writing could involve talking eagles and immortal hot people who liked to sing and dance, i.e. it can be anything you want it to be, provided you don't suck.

I've also digested and analyzed what I didn't like, such as the conversations between Frodo and Sam, for example, that often seemed to jar in my head. It didn't seem sincere to me at the time, maybe because of my politics, maybe because they just stuck out at me like little islands of overwrought text that didn't seem to fit with Tolkien's effortless descriptions of the scenery and so on. Anyhow, I decided to re-examine conversation and the way it can break the flow of prose, and so on, and so forth.

Plus, the books simply reminded me of how much I'm in love with reading, and hopefully always will be.
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Old 01-04-2005, 06:36 PM   #22
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Tolkien This is a GREAT thread

I think that there must have been some overall similarity between those of us who fall in love with these books. What this is we may never know.

Being the little philosopher I am I am hugely impressed by this topic. Let me quote a saying I have heard said: "The more you read, the more you know; the more you know, the more you grow." I think this is true in all cases of reading. I think we grow with every day, and depending on what happens to us, we may learn different things, good or bad. I also think this common admiration between so many people brings us together somehow. It's like we can understand each other more because we understand Tolkien. (Am I blabbering?)

In the most obvious sense I have benefited in my English. Yes, it does make it heaps easier to decipher Shakespeare! Because I'm still in school this is helpful because right now we have to read Hamlet...

I think I have gained a certain respect for the language used, and the way it creates emotion in its readers and helps the writing to flow. Tolkien inspires me (I suppose he inspires us all), and makes me want to be a better writer. I think we all know that nothing like this will ever be done again, and that is part of what makes it special to us. The enormity and uniqueness of his work can not be replicated.

Reading Tolkien opened the door for fiction in my life. That is one thing I am most greatful for. It was my first fiction book, and then was followed by other great fiction writers, though none will ever compare. Eg. Robert Jordan, Garth Nix, Isobelle Carmody, J.K. Rowling..

It would take a lifetime to figure fully how Tolkien affects me. But I know I am grateful for the experience. I just said the first things that came to my head, so please excuse me if they go straight over yours!
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Old 01-05-2005, 05:47 AM   #23
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I've already answered Fordim's question: Is there a bit of Tolkien in all of us, or are we just rising to a challenge presented by the book in our own unique ways? But I have also been thinking about his other questions:

Quote:
I am being improved by the book, or am I improving myself in response to the book?
I think that if you do indeed improve yourself in response to the book, then the book has already done its job in terms of improving you. Meaning, for example, if you go on to develop an interest in linguistics after reading LotR, then you are indeed improving in response to the book, and that response has been generated by the book itself in some way.

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Is there a specific kind of Middle-earth improvement that I cannot gain from any other book, or is it merely one pathway among many to the same place?
I think the question here is whether there is one place which we can get to from reading the book. As the boards demonstrate, the results of reading Tolkien are disparate. Some of us find certainty in Tolkien, others, like myself, are often left with even more questions than when they started reading. I think this depends upon us as individuals. Tolkien has something to teach us, to show us, but we all interpret it in different ways. He is a teacher, but he is not didactic.

In terms of whether we could get this from any other book, I am not so sure. Possibly if we read all that Tolkien had read, e.g. The Eddas, Beowulf etc., then we might possibly get the same results, as the influence of these is immense on his work, but we must not forget that Tolkien's work is also unique. It is filled with his own interpretations, impressions and ideas.

There are a lot of pathways that look quite similar, but the signposts have been subtly altered, I find! And if we are talking of Middle-earth improvement then where else could we get that from but LotR?

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Are those of us who are made better by the book, or who better ourselves in resonse to the book, better in the same way?
I think we all share one common trait and that is a keen sense of wonder. It is this that is stirred within us when we journey through Middle Earth. Possibly this is another 'bit of Tolkien' that we all share, as he certainly had this sense. But I don't think we will all be better in the same way, after all, LotR is just one influence on our lives (even if it is an overly large influence in my own case ) and as individuals we will respond in different ways. There will be certain traits that Downers share, as this is a community, and like all communities, it has its own culture, shared ideals, and broadly held beliefs; other sites would likely be very different. So, we may all share certain traits, but not all Tolkien fans will.
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Old 01-05-2005, 06:19 PM   #24
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Tolkien

I heard once that we are influenced by I think 10 000 people in our lifetime. I wonder by how many books...
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Old 01-05-2005, 06:45 PM   #25
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*shakes her head* Fordim's everywhere now, I see...and is that eight boxes I count? 'Tis astounding...though it's no real surprise.

Yet again you ask some mind-boggling questions. (I've always wanted to use that word, 'mind-boggling'...) So I'm going to answer some specific ones in a rather general way. First, the whole matter of improving yourself. It is my belief that self-improvement has the prefix 'self' for a reason. Making yourself a better person is entirely up to you. It's also completely an inward thing. The physical world has countless effects on all people, but they are merely stimuli for internal growth. In the end, no matter what happens in our physical world around us, our intellectual and spiritual world is ours to control. But on what plane is something like The Lord of the Rings located? For its physical properties, the story is simply a bunch -- a whole bunch! -- of words. The importance and meaning of words is arguable, but can any words really make you a better person?

But what do people do with words once they read them or hear them? They don't just recognize each word and what it means according to Webster, but they take it in as something that means something, and, needless to say, something beyond a man-made definition. It's almost like a word has a color. But of course it's hard to define colors, especially in all the various hues there can be, and everyone is going to see them differently. So truly, a person can paint a picture with words, and Tolkien most certainly does, but how easily can we dispute over his medium, his message, his tone, and his painting's impact when we hang it upon the wall and scrutinize it? And of course we all know what one does when he walks by a painting: he adjusts it so it hangs straight. But the next person that walks by might see it as crooked, and will adjust it again. They saw what the former person saw to be straight as crooked, and see what they see to be straight as straight, though they had to make what the other person saw as straight crooked in order for them to see it straight.

I love analogies.

The meaning we receive from something like The Lord of the Rings is personal. But meaning alone is nothing unless it is understood, and applied. And it can be applied anywhere, as long as it becomes a part of you. And undoubtedly it will, as we essentially have no where to apply it except to ourselves. So everything is relevant, and everything else irrelevant, as relevance is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe there is a 'Tolkien in all of us,' simply because we have all found our relevance in this man's life-work. But a 'Tolkien in all of us' does not define 'all of us' as anything more than of the same species!

You could say there is a Tolkien in me, just as there's a Yoda in me. And I could say that reading and re-reading The Lord of the Rings has made me a better person before. In a very basic way, it got me into reading when I first read it. Also, through that very first reading, it opened up my mind. It opened up a world of fantasy that I hadn't known before, and this began one big expansion in my brain and my known world. Windows were widened for me, so more light could come in. I still have a great many cobwebs to clean up still, and there's more windows and more doors that need to be opened to the light. But I took Tolkien's world and let it inspire me and enlighten me, used it as a guide down no certain path. I guess Frodo's journey inspired me to take on my own journey in life with a little more heart. In that way, I believe I have become a better person through my adventures in Middle-Earth, and beyond.

Now I can ask myself but one question: have I actually made a point in this post?

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Old 01-05-2005, 11:29 PM   #26
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I do not know if I can say that reading Tolkien has made me better morally, made me kinder or more giving or more loving. But I know Tolkien has enriched me. I have a love of beauty and the natural world that is far beyond anything I had before I started to read Tolkien. I have a great appreciation now for the exquisite use of words. And Tolkien's writings taught me to respond more emotively to literature. I used to be ashamed of crying over books or movies, but now I am glad to be so moved. More than anything, the battle cries in TTT and RoTK and the great battles of RoTK make me cry--I don't know why, really. But if to be enriched is to become better, I have indeed.
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Old 01-06-2005, 02:56 PM   #27
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has reading (and/or re-reading, and re-reading…) The Lord of the Rings made you a “better person”?
In some ways, yes. I had a hard time liking to read before, because I was reading the wrong kind of books. When I discovered I liked fantasy I began to LOVE reading and can't get enough of it. Lord of the rings has inscreased my vocabulary and when teachers or youth pastors use illustrations from it, it helps me understand better. J.R.R. Tolkien also inspired me on a career path. I always loved writing and didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, but never before thought to put the two together! So, yes in ways it has, but morally I don't think so.


Oh, and I'm also doing the "walk to Rivendell" so you can say it's made me healthier!
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Old 01-19-2005, 12:31 PM   #28
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In one sense I am probably a worse person for Middle Earth since I spend so much time happily rereading Tolkien and on Tolkien related websites which I could devote to reading that huge pile of bought but unread books I posess or doing something career advancing.

Furthermore in my first Tolkien phase in my adolescence it encouraged an extant interest in languages which eventually led me to follow my heart rather than my exam grades when I chose my A-Levels ( however my grannie's wish that I should become a doctor was a non-starter as I knew it would involve cutting up dead people - this was before I learned that the living are much scarier!)

Anyway I don't think that I can entirely blame Tolkien for my poor career choices and I had blast for 4 years doing English and French Lit even though I hadn't a clue what I would do with it. At least it pleased my personal tutor that she had a charge who was positively ecstatic about the prospect of studying her own subject of linguistics. Strangely enough though it was at this point, I left Tolkien for a long time. Partly, I had little time to read anything of my own choice and partly, I perceived that I was expected to be interested in more serious stuff.
Also I had exhausted the supply other than the slowly emerging HoME which I really didn't have time to digest.

However while I might have had a different and more successful career without Tolkien, I don't want to be melodramatic but there is a distinct possibility that I would not be alive without Tolkien. When I first read it, I was having a particularly bad time at school and really wanted to die. I don't think I could have survived the real world if I had't had middle earth to escape to.

When I returned to Tolkien, it also had a therepeutic value. It was partly the films that brought me back - I had thought I wouldn't want to see them, having such a clear picture of them in my head but as soon as I saw a trailer my resolve melted. The FOTR came out a matter of weeks after my mother died. We knew her cancer was terminal from diagnosis, but she went through so much against the odds and won a little precious remission. I had long ago learnt by heart Sam's song in Cirith Ungol and I had copied it for her. And it really summed up her attitude - she kept on going in the face of what was logically a hopeless situation. I had put my life on hold to care for her and when she died - very suddenly in the end- I was absolutely bereft, emotionally and physically exhausted. Middle Earth was again a comfort - going back to the books may have been escapism and regression but it was also healing. Through Tolkien I have made some good friends, one in particular who was more help than any counsellor of priest could have been as I grieved. So on the scale of things I think I come out better because of Tolkien - as a person if not as an economic unit. I am not sure that another author could have had quite the same effect.. I mean I found the entire Forsyte Chronicles a distraction when I was ill between Tolkien phases but it hasn't had such a lasting or profound impact..

Now I worry that I should do something more constructive with my time and it slightly concerning that I am often keener to find out what is happening on the downs or my other board than what is going on in the lives of my "real" friends. However most of my real friends have children and are unable to talk about anything else which gets a bit tedious ..... arguing the toss about balrog wings and elf ears beats getting a far too detailed account of god-son's potty training believe me.
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Old 01-23-2005, 07:08 PM   #29
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Has reading LOTR made me a better person? I don't think reading something can make you a better person. It is up to the person to make themselves better, even though the reading of a certain book may have helped them want to be better, only they can change themselves.

For me personally though, LOTR has helped me look on the world around me differently and see that even when life seems to be at it's worse, it can get better. But I did not read the books to help change me or make me a better person, I read them so I could lose myself in another world. When life gets crazy, Middle-Earth is my escape.
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Old 01-24-2005, 02:48 PM   #30
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Re:

No. Actually, reading the Lord of the Rings made me worse.

Seriously ... let's see ... in grade school and middle school I was an A+ student. Then in 9th grade I read the Lord of the Rings, and in high school and college I was a lazy, chronically bored, always sleeping mess of a C student.

And to top it off, I spent my waking hours in school drawing characters from the Lord of the Rings.

The only class I ever had a 100 average in was Trilogy ... a class where we read the Lord of the Rings.

And also, for four years I never felt the need to read anything non-Tolkien. That can't be good for expanding my horizons, I'm sure I missed out on loads of good reads, and I KNOW I missed out on a lot of reading for classes I could have been doing, but wasn't, because if I was going to read anything, it had to be LOTR.

On the bright side, some of the topics on this forum helped teach me good debate skills for college, and through all that drawing, I got better at everything from drawing horses to human musculature, all sorts of texture and shadow, and architecture and weapons.

Which is good, I suppose.

That's not to say the Lord of the Rings isn't the greatest book ever written ... it's a thrill ride, with some of the best writing ever, especially the suggestive parts Tolkien stuck in between all the great descriptive parts. The Father of Modern Myth.

Anyway, I'm actually a worse person. But I'm a better artist ... so there's some good that came of this.
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Old 01-25-2005, 11:01 PM   #31
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Well. like was said before me, I have been guilty is slacking off in other areas do to my Tolkien fasination *cough* But LOTR teaches a lot of good stuff. I like to think that it has made me e better person. You could live your life by the values of some of the main characters....
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Old 01-31-2005, 05:20 PM   #32
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Tolkien

I think watching Sam and Legolas and how loyal they are makes me want to be like them. I think I am a better person. I am more quiet, and listen more to other people. And I notice a lot more things. (Not that that has to do anything with being a better person.)
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Old 02-01-2005, 03:58 AM   #33
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wELL, the LOTR changed my life in this: I tried to study English further, then I became obssessed with it, and eventually ended up researching on the Net some Olde English.

Now I'm serious: after reading the LOTR I became more studious, for I heard some older geeks saying it's an allegory of Britain, and all that stuff. I also ended up trying to be a better Roman Catholic, which, sadly, has been disrupted because of that Da Vinci Code...

I don't know why, but after learning that the author of my fave books was a devout Roman Catholic, I have desired to deepen my faith... and I'm reviving it now.
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Old 02-01-2005, 07:18 AM   #34
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I don't know why, but after learning that the author of my fave books was a devout Roman Catholic, I have desired to deepen my faith... and I'm reviving it now.
That's quite a significant influence! I think for me LotR had a slightly opposite effect in the end. I would have identified myself as a definite Christian until I was about 15, but from reading LotR I was diverted onto reading more about the 'old' religions, and the more I read, the more I realised I was on the wrong path (not wrong per se, just wrong for me, you understand).

But who are these "older geeks" you speak of, yavanna II? I am intrigued by the idea of them. Are they wizened spectacle-wearing folk clutching circuit boards instead of the mythic swords they desire? Do they cling to their original Star Wars toys as though they were ancient relics? Or hark back to the early days of the Space Invader machine with a misty fondness about their eyes? Am I an "older geek" too? Halfway to the great fan convention in the sky...
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Old 08-19-2005, 05:13 AM   #35
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But who are these "older geeks" you speak of, yavanna II? I am intrigued by the idea of them. Are they wizened spectacle-wearing folk clutching circuit boards instead of the mythic swords they desire? Do they cling to their original Star Wars toys as though they were ancient relics? Or hark back to the early days of the Space Invader machine with a misty fondness about their eyes? Am I an "older geek" too? Halfway to the great fan convention in the sky...

Maybe... depends on the difference on our ages... I'm 15... but it doesn't mean you're an "older geek" just because you treasure your dad's Star Wars relic... I'd classify that as just "geek".

Actually the "o.g."s I was referring to were my mentors... my forty-something Chem teacher is one... he used to ramble on about how cute Legolas was in the movie and how he loved rereading the Sil... another is my great DAD... who bought me all the books I have desired [and some I really didn't ask for...]

They were the ones who told me JRRT was a Catholic... and they were the ones who gave me a really tough scolding after learning I bought a Da Vinci Code , rambling on about how a nice Catholic girl who practically grew up in a Cath. school ended up reading that.......
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Old 08-19-2005, 05:37 AM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
That's quite a significant influence! I think for me LotR had a slightly opposite effect in the end. I would have identified myself as a definite Christian until I was about 15, but from reading LotR I was diverted onto reading more about the 'old' religions, and the more I read, the more I realised I was on the wrong path (not wrong per se, just wrong for me, you understand).
That's quite the statement of Tolkien's influence, Lal. I really ought to direct Mr. Underhill's attention to it, for his interest in the thread LOTR and your Weltanschauung , which has a slightly different take than Fordim's question here.
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Old 08-20-2005, 01:29 AM   #37
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For me, too, Tolkien has influenced me in a religious fashion.

By my early teens, I was already a very devout atheist (as I have since remained), however, I had the downfall of being extremely confrontational. Something I can't just chalk up to youthful defiance, either. Finding Tolkien, and becoming informed about his life, played a large part in my becoming more sensitive to other people in relation to religious desire and need. Finding this site, especially, introduced me to people I could respect on an intelligence level who were of one faith or another. Respect for faith was something an atheist since birth has a difficult time with.

Tolkien also exposed me to a different outlook in another way. The enviromental views found in his writings are almost demonizing towards technology, something I would have trouble understanding without his influence. I'm quite the proponent and technology, obviously, and generally regard it's expanded use without too many qualms. Reading Tolkien has brought me a great awareness of nature, one that would have took a lot longer to develop.
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Old 05-05-2006, 04:45 AM   #38
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Yes, in a way it helped in my politcal awarness process in my early teens. Because it has a geo-strategic feature in it. The battle between Mordor and the West.
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