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More Hugo ranting, etc. - Input Junkie
May 21st, 2012
09:20 am

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More Hugo ranting, etc.
Apologies for leaving out a crucial detail in the previous post-- it's not Assassins Guilds as such that I find so implausible, it's Assassins Guilds which aren't owned by a government or possibly some very organized crime, and my impression is that the guild in ASoIaF is independent.

Also, I assume that Martin's assassins are very good at recognizing people by their build and how they move, and at ignoring faces as a method of identification.

I've read _Deadline_, almost all of _A Dance with Dragons, and am about 150 pages into _Leviathan Wakes_, and my feeling is "Would you like some death with your death? Perhaps a plate of maggots with death sauce?"

I'm also reading Digger, and it's a considerable relief.

I've complained that the body count among the main characters in LOTR is implausibly low. I might not be complaining about that again.

Which reminds me, I've also complained that the way Saruman damaged the Shire seemed weirdly modern. I was rereading Shippey about characterization through rhetoric in "The Council of Elrond" because of Visualizing English Word Origins, and he mentions that Saruman talks like a modern politician-- so I could still argue that it's anachronistic, but my feeling that it came out of nowhere isn't fair.

I wonder whether politicians in dictatorships slither the way democratic politicians do-- Saruman was definitely in a dictatorship, but his way of saying a number of smoothly contradictory things seems more as though he was trying to be electable.

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From:madfilkentist
Date:May 21st, 2012 03:17 pm (UTC)
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Even in a dictatorship with no significant internal opposition (e.g., the Nazis), the leaders need to minimize grumbling and passive non-cooperation, so they have to keep up a good line.
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From:agrumer
Date:May 21st, 2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
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"Weirdly"? Isn't Saruman the representation of technology, and of the aspects of modernity that Tolkien hated, in the books?

The Shire in general is more modern than the rest of Middle Earth. Hobbits have clocks, modern calendars, fireworks, and pockets. I think they even have golf, and possibly elected representatives. Lord of the Rings isn't technically a portal fantasy, but the way the Hobbits are presented gives it that same sense of introducing character similar to the reader, then plunging them into strange adventure.
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From:nancylebov
Date:May 21st, 2012 07:50 pm (UTC)
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The sort of bureaucratic state Saruman imposed on the Shire is nothing like the crude sort of dictatorship the orcs seem to live under. I suppose he could be viewed as clever enough to invent different sorts of tyranny as needed.

Everything else in LOTR seems to be embedded in history. I do think it's weird to have an allegorical figure wandering around.
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From:agrumer
Date:May 21st, 2012 08:29 pm (UTC)
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I don't think Tolkien would've considered Saruman allegorical; he "dislike[d] allegory in all its manifestations".

Still, Saruman introduced ahistorical industrial processes to his war preparations. He's not a human being, so maybe this sort of out-of-time thinking is one of the things istari can do. Saruman in particular, whose name means "man of skill", is probably something of a Prometheus figure.

It seems likely to me that the industrialization of Isengard was inspired partly by the description of the creation of cannons and gunpowder by Satan's army for the War in Heaven in Milton's Paradise Lost (which Tolkien would certainly have been familiar with).
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From:nancylebov
Date:May 21st, 2012 09:30 pm (UTC)
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You described Saruman as "the representation of technology, and of the aspects of modernity that Tolkien hated", which made him sound like an allegorical figure.

Your mention of him as "man of skill" is an interesting angle, though he seems to lack geekish delight in his intelligence. Even allowing for the fact that that he's a bad guy, he's no Feanor.

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From:agrumer
Date:May 21st, 2012 10:55 pm (UTC)
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Have you read this brief essay by Andrew Rilstone, "Lewis and Tolkien on Allegory"?
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From:nancylebov
Date:May 21st, 2012 11:55 pm (UTC)
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I've read it now. Thanks.

As you describe him, Saruman's symbolism falls somewhere between a mental tendency and a specific thing.
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From:xiphias
Date:May 22nd, 2012 02:50 am (UTC)
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Wasn't Isengard actually based, more or less, on the real industrial sites showing up around Britain? I seem to remember something in a discussion of AMONG OTHERS that the similarities between Saurimon's realm and the Phurnicite plant are because the one is, somewhat, based on the other.
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