Sing all ye People!

Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor,
for the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever,
and the Dark Tower is thrown down.
Sing and rejoice, ye people of the Tower of Guard,
for your watch hath not been in vain,
and the Black Gate is broken,
and your King hath passed through,
and he is victorious.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.
And the Tree that was withered shall be renewed,
and he shall plant it in the high places,
and the City shall be blessed.
Sing all ye people!


Tolkien as 'translator'

How thoroughly realised was Tolkien's fiction that he was the "translator" of "The Lord of the Rings"?

Very thoroughly indeed. The scenario was that "of course" hobbits couldn't have spoken English; rather, they spoke their own language, called Westron (but often referred to as the Common Speech). Tolkien "translated" this language into English, which included rendering all the Common Speech place-names into the equivalent English place-names. The object of the exercise was to produce the following effect: names in the Common Speech (which were familiar to the hobbits) were rendered into English (in which form they would be familiar to us, the English-speaking readers); names in other languages (usually Sindarin) were not changed in this way, and thus were equally unfamiliar to the hobbits and to us. Since the story was told largely from the hobbits' point of view, that we should share their linguistic experience is a desirable result (especially for Tolkien, who was unusually sensitive to such matters).

In portraying the linguistic landscape of Middle-earth he carried this procedure much further. The main example was his substitution of Anglo-Saxon for Rohirric. The rationale was that the hobbits' dialect of Westron was distantly related to Rohirric; therefore, when hobbits heard Rohirric they recognized many words but the language nevertheless remained just beyond understanding (RK, 65 (V,3)). Thus, Tolkien attempted to further duplicate hobbit linguistic perceptions by substituting that language of our world (Anglo-Saxon) which has (more-or-less) the same relation to English that Rohirric had to the hobbit version of Westron.

There were many other nuances in the intricate and subtle linguistic web he devised (always, he carefully explained, in the interests of reproducing the linguistic map of Middle-Earth in a way that could be easily assimilated by modern English-speaking readers). Thus:

a) Archaic English roots were used in those Common Speech place-names which were given long before the time of the story (e.g. Tindrock, Derndingle; etc.).

b) Some of the Stoors (who later settled in Buckland and the Marish) dwelt in Dunland at one time (Tale of Years, entries for TA 1150 and 1630 (RK, App B)); the men of Bree also came from that region originally (RK, 408 (App F, I, "Of Men", "Of Hobbits")). "Since the survival of traces of the older language of the Stoors and the Bree-men resembled the survival of Celtic elements in England" (RK, 414 (App F, II)), the place-names in Bree were Celtic in origin (Bree, Archet, Chetwood) (see also Guide). Similarly, the names of the Buckland hobbits were Welsh (e.g. Madoc, Berilac).

c) Among hobbits some of the older Fallohide families liked to give themselves high-sounding names from the legendary past (an example of hobbit humor). Tolkien represented such names by names of Frankish or Gothic origin (Isengrim, Rudigar, Fredegar, Peregrin).

These matters and much else is explained in detail in Appendix F of 'Return of the King'.

The day death died

But that moan was not only his. As if the sound released something greater than itself, another moan answered it. The silence groaned. They heard it. The supernatural mountain on which they stood shook and there went through Battle Hill itself the slightest vibration from that other quaking, so that all over it china tinkled, and papers moved, and an occasional ill-balanced ornament fell. Pauline stood still and straight. Margaret shut her eyes and sank more deeply into her pillow. The dead man felt it and was drawn back away from that window into his own world of being, where also something suffered and was free. The groan was at once dereliction of power and creation of power. In it, far off, beyond vision in the depths of all the worlds, a god, unamenable to death, awhile endured and died.

Charles Williams
“Descent into Hell”
Chapter 7, ‘Junction of Travellers’


[Image: Ophelia by John Everett Millais]

In the play Hamlet, Ophelia climbs out on a branch overhanging a river: the branch breaks, she falls and drowns. What would you reply if someone asked, ‘Did Ophelia die because Shakespeare for poetic reasons, wanted her to die at that moment - or because the branch broke?’ I think that one would have to say ‘For both reasons.’ Every event in the play happens as a result of other events in the play, but also every event happens because the poet wants it to happen. All the events in the play are Shakespearean events; similarly, all events in the real world are providential events… ‘Providence’ and natural causation are not alternatives; both determine every event. Both are one.
C.S. Lewis - Miracles

Longing in Williams

With the longing and sensuality in this passage from All Hallows Eve, comes a sharp sense of tension and the macabre:

They were all now in a world of simple act. The time for thought, dispute, preparation was done. They were in the City. They were potent to act or impotent to act, but that was the only difference between any of them. The eyes of the woman who lay, incapable of act, against the abandoned chair, were also on Betty and greedy with the same murderous desire. The diseased creatures, also incapable, who lay around the circle, trembled and moaned a little with their helpless longing for the act of healing. She and they alike yearned towards act, and could not reach it. The dwarf-form was still in motion, and its motions as it forced its way on were both its own and Evelyn's - it magically drawn to its origin, she spiritually driving to her refuge. Betty felt that invisible soft mass press against her everywhere - against head and breasts, hands and thighs and legs. She gasped out to Jonathan: "Let go - you must. I may; not you. Only one of us, and I knew her." She wrenched her own hand free from his and struck it backward against him, as Lester had struck at Richard, one gesture whether accurst or blest. In the fierceness of her knowledgeable love, she struck so hard -- all heaven in the blow -- that he loosed his arm from her and fell back a pace. Richard caught and steadied him. At that moment, as Betty entered the circle, the rain broke in.

Charles Williams “All Hallows Eve”

Lewis on Longing

Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory“If we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of the morning, but they do not make fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we will get in.”
Lewis wrote that the sight of the Castlereagh Hills from his nursery window would cause a beautiful aching, an inconsolable longing to arise within his heart. “They taught me longing,” he recalled. He felt the same feelings, he said, when viewing great works of art or reading powerful literature. As he analyzed these experiences, he defined them as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.”
Lewis asked himself, even as an atheist, “what is it that I am longing for?” George MacDonald’s book, Phantastes, helped him make the first connection between his feeling of longing and Christianity.
Lewis found that no experience in this life completely fulfilled this longing or the desires it awakens in us. All we get are hints and guesses.
He queried in a letter to his friend Sheldon Vanauken (author of A Severe Mercy) on December 23, 1950: “Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? Or, if they did, would that fact itself not strongly suggest that they had not always been, or would not always be, purely aquatic creatures? If you are really a product of a materialistic universe, how is it that you don’t feel at home there?”.

In Mere Christianity, he concludes similarly,
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.”   C. S. Lewis wrote of longing often.

In The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien had Gandalf try to explain it to Frodo. It ran through each of Charles Williams’ novels. It’s an experience we’ve all had from time to time.