Tolkien and Campbell

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Ashre
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Post by Ashre » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hello, I am currently reading the Lord of the Rings and am struck by how much it fits Campbell's ideas. I was wondering if Campbell ever discussed Tolkien at all? I have been searching to find something, but have thus far turned up nothing.



Thanks!
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Post by David_Kudler » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

That's a really interesting question. Campbell published "Hero with a Thousand Faces" in 1949, before the publication of "The Lord of the Rings," though after JRR Tolkien had already been working on the trilogy for some years.



To the best of our knowledge, Campbell never wrote or spoke directly on the topic of The Lord of the Rings or Tolkien’s other work. Neither (again, to the best of our knowledge) did Tolkien discuss Campbell's work, although one can definitely see the ways in which the images of the fictional works embody many of the ideas that are laid out in "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" and Campbell’s other works.



Indeed, I recently reread the LOTR trilogy, before seeing "Fellowship of the Ring", and was struck by the mythic themes that resonate throughout. It occurred to me to wonder whether Tolkein, a renowned professor of myth and languages, might not have read "The Hero." Then again, I tend to see the Hero’s Journey everywhere these days—it’s one of the professional hazards of working for the JCF. :smile:







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Ashre
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Post by Ashre » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks so much for replying! It sounds as though they were working on their books at the same time making the works too close together to stop and compare them.



This is a nice place by the way!
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Post by David_Kudler » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Glad you're enjoying our site.



Having received a number of Tolkien-related requests over the past couple of months, I took the liberty of contacting a Tolkien scholar, Veralyn Flieger, and posing the question to her. Here, with her permission, is her response:
As far as I know, Tolkien never spoke

of or wrote about any acquaintance with Joseph Campbell‚s work, though it' is certainly the kind of thing he would have been drawn to. I have yet to come across any serious writing on myth and folklore that Tolkien HADN'T read. At a guess, I think he would have known both The Masks of God and the Hero With a Thousand Faces. He would, however, have been equally familiar with Raglan's work on the hero figure, and with Rank's. Moreover, Tolkien was definitly familiar with Jung's work. [...]









It's always possible that on the "kinship of

great minds" principle, their ideas resonate with one another because both thought along the same lines, and understood the world in much the same way. Much of the literature that Tolkien studied and taught--

Beowulf, Norse mythology, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight--was made of the epic components and followed the mythic tradition that provides the

paradigm for the hero path. It's always been there.







I have taught courses in Tolkien and comparative mythology for thirty years, and have known and admired the work Joseph Campbell for about the same length of time. I have always found Campbell's work both compatible with and illuminating of Tolkien's fiction, and I use it

frequently in my classes.







I had the privilege of meeting and talking with Joseph Campbell and his wife at a conference in Northern Virginia, a scant few years before his

death. It was an unforgettable experience, one I'll always treasure. He was a remarkable man.
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Post by cynth » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thank you for contacting Veralyn Flieger and including her comments. I agree that the literature and mythologies Tolkien studied account for the richness and depth of his works. He seems to have drawn on quite an eclectic mix of Celtic, Germanic, Carolingian and Arthurian myths in creating the stories of Middle Earth. A very interesting study of the various mythologies that may have influenced Tolkien is Tolkien's Ring by David Day.
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Post by David_Kudler » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thank you for the reference, Cynth.



Just out of curiosity, does Day talk about Jung and/or Campbell at all? LOTR strikes me, at least, as one of the most archetypal Hero's Journey stories of the last century, unless you want to include such consciously Campbell-ian works as Star Wars.
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Post by Manuel_Otto » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

This is a very interesting discussion to me. It touches on an aspect of this work that is one of my greatest focuses.



Although he was well exposed to a variety of mythic traditions and had an analyst's/enthusiast's appreciation for them, I think that one of the most prominent reasons that Tolkien's work was so powerful was that he had allowed a creative space for himself and given inner ears and eyes to the ultimate source of myth and archetypes.



Aside from Campbell's incredible observations of the similarities in myths from all corners of the earth and of recorded history, some of his most valuable observations were regarding the creative source of myth. He didn't say that it was from humans studying his theories of comparative mythology and then creating new stories based on these formulas, but rather an elite experience of individuals giving time to creative space and listening/seeing and recording, in the medium of their particular affinity (oral, paint, writing, etc.), their experience. Eventually, through a process of collective revision, the individual's private vision became society's.



There are many people who study comparative mythology in the process of enhancing their writing, painting, dancing, etc., but the one's who truly present us with soul-touching work are those, such as Tolkien, that put it all aside at some point and just do what their inner voice tells them to do.
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Post by cynth » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

David Day’s work is more of a literary comparison of the mythological contributions to LOTR rather than the deeper study of the archetypal hero’s journey. While he references the symbolical language of myth, he never mentions the works of Joseph Campbell. His only references to Carl Jung are in a chapter concerning the quest of the alchemist and the alchemist’s ring, the Ouroboros, symbolizing universal knowledge. He believed the quest dream of Zosimos is about integrating the conflicting aspects of human personality and life harmony. “In alchemy and myths he saw symbols of a subconscious, universal language – a ‘secret language’ of the psyche which the unconscious understood, even if the mind did not.”



I think both of your replies address the same issues. Studying and even understanding the theories of comparative mythology won’t necessarily produce a great work in kind. Tolkien wrote in a letter, “I was from early days grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of its own, not of the quality that I sought, and found in legends of other lands. There was Greek, and Celtic, and Romance, Germanic, Scandinavian, and Finnish; but nothing English, save impoverished chap-book stuff.” He set out to create a “body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic, to the level of romantic fairy story. . .which I could dedicate simply: to England; to my country.” He may not have studied the theories of comparative mythology, but the myths he studied certainly spoke to him. He understood their language and was thus able to create myths of his own, using the creative space of which you spoke. I agree with your comments on the individual’s private vision becoming society’s vision. These artists must have been on a hero’s journey of their own where they experienced a moment of enlightenment or the sublime. They then had the talent to transfer that moment and their vision in their own works for others to experience. It is that enlightenment that adds the depth to their works and touches the souls of others.



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Post by David_Kudler » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks for your insight, Cynth!



This is a bit off-subject, but I find it fascinating that two of the most passionately patriotic British writers of the twentieth century (Tolkein and playwright Tom Stoppard) were born in Finland and Czechoslovakia, respectively. Just proves the old adage that there's no adherent so passionate about a belief as a new convert.
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Post by ashlin » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I'm new here, and this the first time I've ever been around people who talk and think like I do. I'm not an intellectual or know the high-folutin language, but I got into Joseph Campbell when I was in therapy a decade ago. I had a disabling Dissociative Identity Disorder that brought my life to shambles for awhile. I started reading Esther Harding's "Psychic Energy" and "Parental Image" and Jung's works on psychotherapy, "Symbols of Transformation" (I think that's right) All that helped me figure out what was wrong with me and get myself back together again. I found my way back to God by reading the "power of Myth". I couldn't put that book down! I'm doing fine now and have built a web site to show my artworks that were related to my Three- Night's-Journey. I love to read in these forums, tho don't feel equal to post a lot of high-level stuff with ya'll.
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Post by Christopher » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

From my readings of both Tolkien and Campbell, I see two keen minds who have plumbed the archetypal depths. That would explain their metaphorical similarities.

Tolkien would be an artist who I would imagine as the type that Campbell was refering to when he said that we were responsible for creating our present day mythology.

The hunger for archetypal meaning is evidenced by the large and positive reaction of the public to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings movie.

I'm new to any discussion.

Chris
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Post by Stone_Giant » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I think Tolkien's mythic exploration of his own psyche is entirely understandable when you investigate the man's life story. I strongly recommend reading Tolkien's biography by Humphrey Carpenter. It indicates to me that his background drove his artistic yearnings which eventually bore fruit in the towering LOTR trilogy. Born in Africa, uprooted to England, orphaned early, restricted in his early private life by the Catholic Church, scarred by War. His study of North European myth and the struggles of it's heroes must have resonated deeply with his own personal history.
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Post by John M Gagnon » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I'd have to go with the fact that Joseph Campbell's theories weren't "created" but more interpretations and explanations of myth that we all have access to in our collective uncounsiousness. So Tolkien wouldn't have had to read and study JC to understand and write myth.
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Post by David_Kudler » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Very true. The whole point of the idea of the monomyth is that it is hard-wired into the human psyche. It creates itself everywhere, not as a matter of belief or culture, but in the same what that certain symbols reappear across time and space. This is one of the reason Christopher Vogler's "The Writer's Journey" was able to cite so many examples of The Hero's Journey—even before its publication (and George Lucas's praise for Campbell) turned Vogler's slightly reductive reading of Hero with a 1000 Faces into a Hollywood blueprint.



I do think one of Veralyn Flieger's points was a good one (actually, I think most of them were good, but I've been thinking about this one a lot)—both Tolkein and Campbell referred to the work of Otto Rank on defining the hero story. So there is reason to believe that, even if their own work didn't cross-polinate, they had received inspiration from a common source that colored their thinking.

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Post by Christopher » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

This all makes so much sense to me. My reading of Carl Jungs work with its emphasis on archetype actually gives me a candle to see my way through this conversation. Campbell has added the flame.

I've read a lot about inventors applying for the same patent. I guess it's a lot like that.

I remember reading in Campbell's book, "The Inner Reaches of Outer Space" that the laws of physics that apply here are the same that apply billions of light years away from here.

I guess that the same laws that apply to my psyche apply to everyone elses.

I was struck that Tolkien's work clearly outlined the problem of man's self destruction, and that he used these little people to be the conscience of the world.

He personified the qualities of man with the use of archetypal images and this created a language that I could relate to.

Being new here,I'm now reading "The Hero With A Thousand Faces". I also am listening to the Moyers interview. Actually, I've been going over and over it.

My first exposure to Mr. Campbell was several years ago, while laid up with a physical ailment, watching the lectures on Public Television.

I have been mesmerized by his ability to recall material. He was a remarkable man, and my artwork has been greatly freed by my exposure to him.

I don't agree with every statement that he made in the interviews, but that doesn't turn me away from his teaching. He has more to offer me.

I'm grateful for this site.

Love and Peace,

Chris.

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