Magic in Middle Earth

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Magic in Middle Earth

Postby Chariot Rider » Thu Feb 04, 2016 9:52 pm

I have been thinking for the past few days about magic, specifically in Lord of the Rings, and how it compares to other worlds. It is a well know fact that in Middle Earth magic is not as common as say in something like Harry Potter (not that I would waste the time to read the Harry chronicles) and I think this adds to Tolkiens world in a unique way. When Tolkien has his characters use magic you know something important is happening. For instance the fellowships encounter with the Balrog. I come to this conclusion, is magic realy magical if everyone can use it? I believe that magic should be special. What fun would it have been if Gandalf had just used magic missiles every two seconds to defeat an enemy and that would have taken away from the importance of other things in the trilogy like the fact that his characters are not all powerful being pulsing with the power go gods but instead they need to rely on each other in order to defeat sauron. Frodo would never have destroyed the ring without Sam by his side. I think of the hobbits in Mordor and how weak they are. No magic spell could have helped them but thier fellowship could and I think that's what Tolkien wanted us to take away. What are your thoughts about the nature of magic in middle earth and did Tolkien get it right or should everyone be running around with pointy hats and long sticks?
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Re: Magic in Middle Earth

Postby Billobob » Fri Feb 05, 2016 9:42 am

Well it depends on What your using magic for. If you want to use magic to create a sense of wonder than no you should use magic sparingly. But if you are using magic for world building, as a plot device,or etc. then having attic being a relatively common thing can help the story.
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Re: Magic in Middle Earth

Postby Voronwe_the_Faithful » Fri Feb 05, 2016 10:51 am

Tolkien wrote:I am afraid I have been far too casual about 'magic' and especially the use of the word; though Galadriel and others show by the criticism of the 'mortal' use of the word, that the thought about it is not altogether casual. But it is a v. large question, and difficult; and a story which, as you so rightly say, is largely about motives (choice, temptations etc.) and the intentions for using whatever is found in the world, could hardly be burdened with a pseudo-philosophic disquisition! I do not intend to involve myself in any debate whether 'magic' in any sense is real or really possible in the world. But I suppose that, for the purposes of the tale, some would say that there is a latent distinction such as once was called the distinction between magia and goeteia.1 Galadriel speaks of the 'deceits of the Enemy'. Well enough, but magia could be, was, held good (per se), and goeteia bad. Neither is, in this tale, good or bad (per se), but only by motive or purpose or use. Both sides use both, but with different motives. The supremely bad motive is (for this tale, since it is specially about it) domination of other 'free' wills. The Enemy's operations are by no means all goetic deceits, but 'magic' that produces real effects in the physical world. But his magia he uses to bulldoze both people and things, and his goeteia to terrify and subjugate. Their magia the Elves and Gandalf use (sparingly): a magia, producing real results (like fire in a wet faggot) for specific beneficent purposes. Their goetic effects are entirely artistic and not intended to deceive: they never deceive Elves (but may deceive or bewilder unaware Men) since the difference is to them as clear as the difference to us between fiction, painting, and sculpture, and 'life'.

Both sides live mainly by 'ordinary' means. The Enemy, or those who have become like him, go in for 'machinery' – with destructive and evil effects — because 'magicians', who have become chiefly concerned to use magia for their own power, would do so (do do so). The basic motive for magia – quite apart from any philosophic consideration of how it would work – is immediacy: speed, reduction of labour, and reduction also to a minimum (or vanishing point) of the gap between the idea or desire and the result or effect. But the magia may not be easy to come by, and at any rate if you have command of abundant slave-labour or machinery (often only the same thing concealed), it may be as quick or quick enough to push mountains over, wreck forests, or build pyramids by such means. Of course another factor then comes in, a moral or pathological one: the tyrants lose sight of objects, become cruel, and like smashing, hurting, and defiling as such. It would no doubt be possible to defend poor Lotho's introduction of more efficient mills; but not of Sharkey and Sandyman's use of them.

Anyway, a difference in the use of 'magic' in this story is that it is not to be come by by 'lore' or spells; but is in an inherent power not possessed or attainable by Men as such. Aragorn's 'healing' might be regarded as 'magical', or at least a blend of magic with pharmacy and 'hypnotic' processes. But it is (in theory) reported by hobbits who have very little notions of philosophy and science; while A. is not a pure 'Man', but at long remove one of the 'children of Luthien'
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