Tuesday, July 20, 2010

AGTO Day Three: The Seminar

Don't you wish you were here too? Look at it! It's like out of a...well, fantasy book. The mixture of new and old. Amazing. Anyway. Today we started off discussing Tolkien's "On Fairy Stories." We didn't read the whole thing, just excerpts. Some people had very strong reactions to it, thinking he sounded like a pompous elitist. I wouldn't go that far, but Tolkien certainly had very particular ideas on what fantasy was.

For Tolkien, the real world has no place in fantasy, and the magic must be taken seriously. You shouldn't poke fun at it. While the story should end on an uplifting note, there should also be an understanding that the world and story continues on after you're done reading, and not everything will always be happy.

It's a little hard to summarize all the conversations, because someone would bring something up and then off we'd go down another path before getting back to where we were. We started talking about how we put our morals onto the stories. One person said how her students were weird out by Mr. Tummins, the fuan from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. They were creeped out by him, an adult spending time with a child alone.

Then some people went off onto how kids these days have no imagination, because of video games and TV and movies and they don't want books and so on. I needed to respond to that because I think that's a bunch of crap. I don't think kids have less imagination. It's not new that there are things that take kids away from reading. And fantasy is not for everyone. Some kids want to read nonfiction. That's fine, there's nothing wrong with that. And movies of books, that can be good. If a kid sees a movie and enjoys it, they want to read the book where it never would have occurred to them before. Or if they have read the book and then they see the movies and it's really bad, they talk about it.

We got back on track and started looking at some Old English texts. We looked at an excerpt from "The Wanderer."

Where is the horse gone? Where the rider
Where the giver of treasure?
Where are the seats at the feast?

Sound familiar, Tolkien fans? Both "The Wanderer" and the song of Rohan from The Two Towers have a very similar feel. Lose, nostalgia, there's no one left to keep the memories, passing greatness. It's very similar. This is a timeless theme in Old English poems. Maria then read part of the poem in the Old English, and it sounds just like Elvish! Or, rather, it seems Elvish sounds just like Old English. Very lyrical. We did some comparison to Beowulf too.

We took a walk over to Pembroke College where Tolkien was a fellow:

We ended at The Eagle and Child where Tolkien and Lewis Carroll and others, "The Inklings," met. It's called "The Rabbit Room."

Tomorrow we look at C.S. Lewis. While I have read all the Narnia books, I have never been a big Lewis fan. I will be interested to hear what other people think.

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