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Was Tolkien a good conlanger? (was: Re: Good Books

From:And Rosta <a.rosta@...>
Date:Friday, March 5, 2004, 16:21
A separate message for the non-OT bit of this discussion...

David P:
> Further, I remain to be convinced that Tolkien was actually a > *good* language creator, rather than just a prolific, or highly > public, one.
I would like to try to convince you, then, but first I need to know what you think are the criterial properties of being a good conlanger. Long-time readers of this list may recall that I have been prominent in articulating my distaste for Quenya and Sindarin, so I think I'm quite well placed to defend his reputation.
> Yet, despite all this, and how hateful such words are to fans > of fantasy and Tolkien (which includes a good many conlangers, > I know), I claim that, as a conlanger, you should be glad of them. > Why? Simply because, as a community, we need diversity.
Slavish conformity is the enemy of creativity, but mindless heterodoxy is not a virtue in itself. For example, the glorious pluralism of American culture is scarcely enhanced (except as black comedy) by, say, white supremacists or New Age astrologers.
> If every conlanger was a Tolkienite, without exception, then it > would be easy for someone like me (who dislikes Tolkien and fantasy) > to dismiss the whole art (or craft or hobby) of conlanging, based on > the logic, "Conlangers like X. I hate X. Therefore, I hate that which > conlangers do." This logic is anything but logical, but who says that > any opinion will be logical? If it's a goal of ours to at least be > accepted or acknowledged for what we do (and I do know that there are > some who wish for exactly the opposite), then at very least we can try > to dismiss the stereotypes outright. This way, there'll be less for > those who don't understand us to attack us with, and hopefully once > they run out of weapons, they'll start listening.
Like Andreas, I don't believe in pandering to the opinions of the small-minded. However, if I may put words in your mouth, one could argue that Tolkien is to us as Shakespeare is to Eng Lit. It is taboo to criticize Shakespeare or to fail to pay sufficient homage; at least in Britain, it is not mandatory to see, read or understand his plays but it is mandatory to acknowledge him as The Greatest Writer Ever. (Note, btw, that Tolkien publicly articulated his dislike for Shakespeare.) Now this is of course one more instance of the dreary servitude to orthodoxy that nowadays, as always in the past, we are subject to, and so it is very welcome for someone to speak up and voice a criticism or dislike of Shakespeare. But if someone were to voice a disdain for Shakespeare -- to deny his merits -- that would be more troubling, because it would entail a disdain for a greater body of values that are precious to us. (Me, I find Shakespeare rather boring, but I am convinced that this is due to the poverty of my own sensibility.) It is the same with Tolkien, for reasons that I have described in my other reply.
> So, that's kind of a vague way of defending my ill-worded cheap > shot. Are we cool?
"Cool" means "without ire" here, right? If I responded wrathfully to anybody expressing reasonable disagreement with my views, I would deserve to be ignored, not placated! --And.


Peter Bleackley <peter.bleackley@...>