Talk:J. R. R. Tolkien

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"Minor" edits[edit]

@Chiswick Chap: Dear Chiswick You should assume good faith rather than trying to own this article. I will be happy to discuss my edits one by one now that I know that you aren't a drive-by reverter. I did not make any bold edits, I altered a few syntactical and grammatical errors. The word "outmoded" is wrong, it implies that there was ever a mode which is historically untenable. Regards PS I'm English, I write in BritEng ;O) Keith-264 (talk) 14:17, 13 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I'm not doubting your good faith, and if you regularly ignore WP:BRD by assuming other editors are drive-by, that certainly wouldn't be in anything resembling good faith on your part. I'm not at all attached to the "outmoded", but find the introduction of "bigoted" into the text on the part of any editor unhelpful. The cited sources however explicitly say "racist" and "racism" so we have a clear mandate for the use those terms. I suggest we leave it with that. Chiswick Chap (talk) 14:26, 13 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You make a fair point, I do get trigger happy at times and I apologise. I only looked in to try to get an answer for the Observer crossword. ;O) Keith-264 (talk) 14:40, 13 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Many thanks. Chiswick Chap (talk) 08:19, 14 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Proposed treatment of second middle name[edit]

The "second middle name" in Tolkien's published name was not on his birth certificate, and is an add-on imposed by Edward VII (also spelled "Edouard" in French title). Reuel is code for "rule," as an informal trademark of the monarchy. Edward VII had heard that Tolkien's prose was "amazingly working," and because he didn't like the liberal (ie. non-monarchist) intellect in it, decided to impose the monicker, and thereafter claim ownership of Tolkien's works.

Tolkien's most famous work, The Lord of the Rings, was "barrel pulbyshdt" ie. "barely published" in the United States (Harper's and Lee Pub.) due to a "paperwork error," rather Woodrow Wilson liked it so much that he "decided it," and arranged it's publication, through Victoria of England's "friend," a female descendant of Prince Frederic, Duke of York and Albany. -Druid Fiesta (talk) 07:40, 26 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Two things. We need a WP:RS for each claim. And we must not include trivia, gossip, or hearsay. Blogs, forums, groups, wikis, and social media are not reliable sources. None of this material sounds prima facie like encyclopedic fact. Chiswick Chap (talk) 08:25, 26 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Agreed. WP:RS will need to be provided to include it in the article GimliDotNet (talk) 11:06, 26 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Such sourcing will be somewhat hard to find, as Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924) had been dead for 30 years by the time The Lord of the Rings was published in 1954–55. Chiswick Chap (talk) 12:01, 26 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Looking through the users previous contributions, I think this is a case of someone who is not quite all there. Perhaps a case of WP:COMPETENCE failure due to insanity. GimliDotNet (talk) 20:16, 26 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Beware WP:PA, please. -- Verbarson  talkedits 09:01, 27 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I’m fully aware of WP:PA. I’m also fully aware of WP:COMPETENCE, and the ramblings of the user indicate someone who is not all there. This is honesty, not an attack. GimliDotNet (talk) 09:18, 27 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Judgements on competence are indeed legitimate, based on an editor's actions. Judgements on mental health can not be so justified. -- Verbarson  talkedits 13:08, 27 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, they can be, if the competency is lacking due to clearly vague ramblings. Now please kindly stick to the topic at hand if you have something to add to the discussion. GimliDotNet (talk) 16:20, 27 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Bournemouth isn't in hampshire[edit]

Bournemouth is in Dorset. Please correct. (talk) 16:02, 29 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Ah, but it was in Hampshire in those days. Chiswick Chap (talk) 16:13, 29 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
From Bournemouth: "Bournemouth lies in the historic county of Hampshire. Following the local government reorganisation in 1974 the town was governed by Dorset County Council." Therefore when JRRT died in 1973, he did it in Hampshire. (UK Local Government - almost as complicated as a hobbit family tree.) -- Verbarson  talkedits 16:15, 29 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

While I am content for this article to use the term "Red Indian" to refer to Native Americans, I can understand that others do disagree, and that the term can be seen as pejorative. Therefore I will put forward my reasons, and hope that others will do likewise, for the better understanding both of Tolkien and our current context, so as to result in a consensus on this issue.

Tolkien used, or is said to have used, the term "Red Indian" in two places that I know of (further evidence welcome). In Carpenter's biography, p.22, we read that as a child "... he liked Red Indian stories and longed to shoot with a bow and arrow." Then, in 1944 (Letter 58), in the context of explaining English culture to an American Officer, he writes "...[certain things] had as much connexion with 'Feudalism' as skyscrapers had with Red Indian wigwams,...".

What I see in these uses of the phrase "Red Indian" is not so much a reference to American Indians as we should understand them today, but rather a cultural image of them, drawn from boy's adventure books and their illustrations. (Possibly also in comics and movies, though these may have been more common in his children's childhood, later than his own.) We can be sure that Tolkien, the philologist and expert on fanciful tales of many sorts, would have been well aware of the gap between what was written in those tales and the underlying reality. I suggest, therefore, that he uses "Red Indian" as a description of the typified characters and cultures in those tales, to explain his fascination with bowmanship, and to provide an easily-understood dwelling to contrast with a skyscraper. (C S Lewis was able to use "wigwam" without further explanation to describe Puddleglum's house in The Silver Chair.)

Because of this, it seems to me that to replace the references in this article with "Native American" would distort what Tolkien was actually saying, as he was not referring to an actual people or culture found under that heading.

What I have not addressed is the pejorative sense that is often attached to "Red Indian". I see no evidence that Tolkien intended any insult (perhaps it should be discussed in Tolkien and race?) but I wish this encyclopaedia to be used in comfort by anyone, including American Indians. Is the term so tainted as to be unusable? -- Verbarson  talkedits 19:55, 6 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this.
What I was trying to say in the edit summary is that we don't need to say that in order to say he liked these stories. It would be different if we were adding an actual quote. But this is just a general statement of his likes. So we don't need this as a description. Especially as the reader - likely not as well-informed about the Professor as you or I - may read more into the usage than the intent. In this context it's not only unnecessary, it's detrimental to the tone of text. - jc37 01:07, 7 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
See also Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Words to watch, and Loaded language - jc37 01:11, 7 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Verbarson and Jc37: I agree with jc37, the context you provided isn't present in the article. The only ways I can see readers interpreting the use of "Red Indian" is either "wow, that Tolkien guy sure is racist", or "wow, that Tolkien guy sure is old" (because "Red Indian" was common way back in then). Using the term does more harm than good, it has the potential to mislead readers on Tolkien's beliefs. – Treetoes023 (talk) 05:45, 7 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Treetoes023 well, I immediately read it as "feather, not dot". guess that makes me racist by today's standards? or just old? (talk) 20:45, 15 October 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
As my revert showed, I agree with Verbarson, particularly with his comments in the third paragraph above. "Stories about Native Americans" just doesn't have the same connotations as "stories about Red Indians". C. S. Lewis, in describing his own interest as a child in stories of "Redskinnery" (his word), wrote that what attracted him was "that whole world to which it [the story] belonged–the snow and the snow-shoes, beavers and canoes, war-paths and wigwams, and Hiawatha names." I don't think "stories about Native Americans" conveys the same world, and if readers get the impression that "wow, that Tolkien guy sure is old", that's certainly not an incorrect impression of either him or the stories he read as a boy. Deor (talk) 13:39, 7 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I support using the term "Native American" for the reasons given above.--Jack Upland (talk) 02:47, 8 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Further grist to the mill:
Primary sources: (WARNING - WP:OR)
  • In On Translating Beowulf Tolkien writes, 'If there be any danger of calling up inappropriate pictures of the Arthurian world, it is a less one than the danger of too many warriors and chiefs begetting the far more inept picture of Zulus or Red Indians.'
  • In On Fairy-Stories, he writes, 'I had very little desire to look for buried treasure or fight pirates, and Treasure Island left me cool. Red Indians were better: there were bows and arrows (I had and have a wholly unsatisfied desire to shoot well with a bow), and strange languages, and glimpses of an archaic mode of life, and, above all, forests in such stories.'
  • Deor, do you have the source for that C S Lewis comment?
Secondary source:
-- Verbarson  talkedits 15:39, 8 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The Lewis quotation is from his essay "On Stories" and can be read here (second paragraph). Deor (talk) 15:47, 8 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Um, with respect to all the learned quotations and carefully-observed sensitivities, I think the point here is that "Red Indians" is not just the name that Tolkien used, but that it conveyed to his generation at least (and I think also to mine) a sense of excitement and adventure wholly lacking in the (wholly anachronistic) "Native Americans". Basically, we aren't here to censor people, far less to put words and concepts into people's mouths. Tolkien would surely have been utterly disgusted by talk of "Native Americans" in his context: he was not talking about anthropology or cultural studies, but about adventure stories that appealed to him as a boy. I'm fine with adding a footnote or gloss to say that we wouldn't create such a phrase today; but resolutely opposed to Bowdlerising our articles into an incomprehensible state of political correctness. Chiswick Chap (talk) 19:07, 9 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree. To me the current formulation seems reasonable and using "Native Americans" instead would not convey the same meaning. The term is not only anachronistic (for a statement by Tolkien) but also too wide, as it refers to "the Indigenous peoples of the United States or portions thereof, such as American Indians from the contiguous United States and Alaska Natives", i.e. a much larger group than the adventure-story-characters, the quote refers to. I think it's appropriate to put "Red Indians" in quotation marks (as it comes verbatim from Carpenter) and to add the explanatory parenthesis. The only quibble I have is that the link to "Native Americans in the United States" should be made not from "Red Indians" but from within the parenthesis (as, e.g.: He liked stories about "Red Indians" (the term then used for certain North-American Native Americans in adventure stories...). --Qcomp (talk) 21:56, 15 October 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree the link should be moved as it is a bit misleading currently. I didn't click on it when I looked at this discussion earlier. I just assumed it led to an article that explained about the terminology. Michael Martinez (talk) 22:07, 15 October 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I've moved the link to Western (genre), as Tolkien was discussing adventure story characters. It's already correctly in quotation marks, as you say. Chiswick Chap (talk) 07:34, 16 October 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks, I think it's good to link to that Genre. But I have moved the link to "adventure stories" rather than "Red Indians". I find it better to leave "Red Indians" as a not-wikilinked quotation from Carpenter's book and instead use the following explanation to link to further background information --Qcomp (talk) 11:39, 16 October 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
And I've further retargeted the link. I'm fairly sure that what Tolkien and Lewis were reading was not westerns but material more along Hiawatha-Chingachgook lines. Deor (talk) 12:40, 16 October 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Since you are right about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and James Fenimore Cooper, as stated reliably by John Garth, your link must in principle be correct, but the link target as currently constituted needs rewriting as it barely hints at adventure stories and doesn't mention "Red Indians" at all (and it needs citing). Further, statements in Historical romance#Native American like "Unlike Westerns, where women are often marginalized, the Western romance focuses on the experiences of the female." do not seem to capture the nature of Cooper's work, and that article's other statement, "Native American novels could also fall into the Western subgenre" seems to get a lot closer to what Tolkien was reading: excitingly romantic in a boyish way, adventure rather than dreaming of hugs and kisses. Chiswick Chap (talk) 13:01, 16 October 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I guess the point I'm trying to make is that the stories Tolkien read were unlikely to have been ones about the Wild West, which is what the term "western" usually connotes (and the main subject of Western (genre)), but probably involved Indigenous peoples of the Eastern Woodlands in earlier periods of American history. I don't think "dreaming of hugs and kisses" comes into the matter at all; the "romance" in "historical romance" refers to Romance (prose fiction), not Romance (love). Deor (talk) 13:50, 16 October 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Which is what I said. The problem is the wording in the linked article, which has in its first sentence "mass-market fiction focusing on romantic relationships in historical periods". Chiswick Chap (talk) 14:06, 16 October 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
We don't seem to have a completely satisfactory article to link to. How about the general "... stories about "Red Indians" (the term then used for Native Americans in adventure stories)"? I suppose I'd be satisfied with any link(s) other than Western (genre). Deor (talk) 15:21, 16 October 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That would be better, yes. Chiswick Chap (talk) 15:35, 16 October 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]


  1. ^ Garth, John (2014). ""The road from adaptation to invention": How Tolkien Came to the Brink of Middle-earth in 1914". 11: 19–20. Retrieved 8 July 2023.