Deus ex machina - Tolkien’s flaw?

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Lord Oakley 18/Dec/2006 at 09:41 AM
Huorn of Fangorn Points: 375 Posts: 25 Joined: 18/Dec/2006

Firstly, can I say that I have never before written a lore post such as this before so I realise that my skills in lore post composition are not exactly first rate

JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is a literary masterpiece. It is over 1000 pages long plus appendixes and maps, does not follow a linear plot but four which finish up coming together at the novel’s climax and yet still remains the second most read book, behind the Bible.

However, nothing is entirely perfect and what is Lord of the Ring’s downfall? Is it its length? For some, yes but this is soon forgotten about when you get right into the text. Is it its multitude of characters? This can certainly be confusing but the reader merely has to re-read certain sections to clear up and confusing bits (such as the Council of Elrond which has a lot of history involved and is definitely not something that can be “skim read”. I would suggest that the real weakness of Lord of the Rings is not in any of the aforementioned but in the author’s use of “Deus es machina”

 

For those who are not sure what this is, it simply something used by authors to get a character out of a situation quickly. A good LOTR related example would be when Sam arrives at Cirith Ungol facing the task of rescuing Frodo from Shagrat and Gorbag. Under normal circumstances, a tower full of heavily armed orcs would make mince meat out of a 4 foot max. Hobbit who has just done battle with a giant spider and would not have been in the best physical shape. However, they are conveniently fighting each other which means most of them are dead, leaving only a few for Sam to successfully deal with.


Another good example would be the books climax at Sammath Naur. Here, Frodo has come within an inch of giving up when he has come so far and through so much when Gollum just happens to slip and take the ring with him to a lava abyss. Some readers of Tolkien have speculated this to be some kind of divine intervention on Eru’s part to prevent all being lost at the final hurdle. However, my own reading of Tolkien would suggest that, if Tolkien has Eru intervening here then why does he not in other, equally critical areas of the book such as Helms Deep where the fate of thousands rests on a Rohirric victory. I believe this to be a classic case of Tolkien using Deus es Machina to bring the mission to a successful climax as to have Frodo fail after coming through all he has done would have been a huge anti-climax and a mistake on his part.


I am not for one moment suggesting that Tolkien was in any way unimaginative or un-original but does the frequent use of “Deus es Machina” in any way spoil your enjoyment of the text and Frodo or any other character gets into a seemingly inescapable situation and the day is miraculously saved with little or no action on their part? Does it also give the whole narrative a slightly formulaic feel which impairs the feeling of spontaneity that a fantasy novel can bring you?

Lord of the Rings 18/Dec/2006 at 10:08 AM
Mandos Points: 8968 Posts: 7368 Joined: 03/Dec/2005
A well written post on a common criticism of TLotR, which deserves a longer response than I shall give, and a better than lies within my capabilities (especially as my copy of The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien is out of state), but here is what I have.

The first point is the destruction of the Ring- this is not speculation that this was Eru’s intervention, this is grounded in the aforementioned (and unfortunately absent for me- hence the lack of a quote) Letters. Why not at the Pelennor, or Helm’s Deep? These are relatively minor occurances compared to the Ring. The War’s only real importance is in how it aided Frodo’s quest (and mitigated the amount of destruction to the free people).

About other occurences- these may appear to be D.e.M., but they are all well reasoned and logical. Take the Pelennor- that could appear to be such, but think of the story of the Paths of the Dead- this was not authorial tweaking, it was simply knowledge withheld from us for dramatic reasons.

I wish I had more time to properly address this.
Phil_d_one 18/Dec/2006 at 10:32 AM
Shipwright of Umbar Points: 13181 Posts: 12667 Joined: 14/Jan/2004

Welcome to the Plaza, Lord Oakley, and let me just say that even if you had no idea how to write a post you’d learn soon enough, and you evidently already know how

Anyway, Tolkien actually does aknowledge his use of the deus ex machina in TLotR, in particular with relation to the Eagles. 

The Eagles are a dangerous ’machine’. I have used them sparingly, and that is the absolute limit of their credibility or usefulness.
(Letter 210)

Where the ’machine’ referenced can only be deus ex machina. And yes, there is evidence of such a plot device used elsewhere -- for example Saruman’s blasting fire, used at Helm’s Deep to enable the Hornburg to be assailed, but which isn’t explained in too much detail (there is, on a most basic level, debate as to what precisely the device was -- gunpowder, magic, or both). But I think that this is the key factor of the deus ex machina, it doesn’t feature much explanation, and if not outlined as such, and used ’sparingly’, can be seen as a cheap way out of a tricky situation. So while Sam’s success in reaching Frodo may be seen as such, it may also be seen as just another event in the plot, since it is entirely plausible that such a fight should break out when it did -- The Hobbits’ presence there was the cause of the fight (albeit indirectly), so the existence of a fight just when Sam would require it most is not as coincedental (and hence implausible) as it might at first seem.

And as for the eventual destruction of the Ring, the idea that it was Iluvatar’s divine intervention that led to the destruction of the Ring is not speculation -- Tolkien tells us explicitly that is the case.

Frodo deserved all honour because he spent every drop of his power of will and body, and that was just sufficient to bring him to the destined point, and no further. Few others, possibly no others of his time, would have got so far. The Other Power then took over: the Writer of the Story (by which I do not mean myself), ’that one ever present Person who is never absent and never named’ (as one critic has said).
(Letter 192)

It is not Tolkien, but the other Writer of the Story, who then takes over. I do not see this as a deus ex machina in the sense that the Eagles are such. For this is not without base, on the contrary, there is base for it throughout the text. Tolkien says in the quote above that Frodo was the only person in Middle-earth at the time that could have taken the Ring as far as he did. How coincedental then that the one person who had to stumble upon it after Gollum dropped it should be the one person whose finding it would ensure that Frodo got the Ring. But it wasn’t coincedence!

’There was more than one power at work, Frodo. The Ring was trying to get back to its master. It had slipped from Isildur’s hand and betrayed him; then when a chance came it caught poor Déagol, and he was murdered; and after that Gollum, and it had devoured him. It could make no further use of him: he was too small and mean; and as long as it stayed with him he would never leave his deep pool again. So now, when its master was awake once more and sending out his dark thought from Mirkwood, it abandoned Gollum. Only to be picked up by the most unlikely person imaginable: Bilbo from the Shire!
’Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that maybe an encouraging thought.’

(TFotR (I) The Shadow of the Past, Emphasis is Mine)

That Gandalf should be sent back is another unimaginably lucky turn of events, but here too it is not coincedence or anything of the such-like.

He was sent by a mere prudent plan of the angelic Valar or governors; but Authority had taken up this plan and enlarged it, at the moment of its failure. ’Naked I was sent back -- for a brief time, until my task is done.’ Sent back by whom, and whence? Not by the ’gods’, whose business is only with this world, for he passed ’out of thought and time’
(Letter 156)

And is this merely a means of explaining, cheaply, how it is that Gandalf was to return. Hardly a cheap explanation, since again it fits in perfectly and meticulously with all else we know to be true.

Gandalf alone fully passes the tersts, on a moral plane anyway (he makes mistakes of judgement). For in his condition it was for him a sacrifice to perish on the Bridge in defence of his comapnions, less perhaps than for a mortal Man or Hobbit, since he had a far greater inner poewr than they: but also more, since it was a humbling and abnegation of himself in conformity to ’the Rules’: for all he could know at that moment he was the only person who could direct the resistance to Sauron succesfully, and all his mission was vain. He was handing over to the Authority that ordained the Rules, and giving up personal hopes of success.
That is what Authority wished, as a set-off to Saruman. The ’wizards’, as such, had failed; or if you like: the crisis had become too grave and needed an enhancement of power. So Gandalf sacrificed himself, was accepted, and enhanced, and returned.

(ibid, Emphasis Tolkien’s)

The Istari were under the obligation of concealing their power, and Gandalf sticks to this obligation on the Bridge, even though it means his death. And even though his death means that his mission has failed, he still goes through with it, placing naked faith, estel, in Iluvatar. And only because of this is he returned. Not a deus ex machina at all, or at least such a well-explained one that it loses its definition as such, and so isn’t one anyway.

Why didn’t Iluvatar intervene at the Defence of the Hornburg. Precisely because that would have been a baseless and unnecessary deus ex machina! Iluvatar was at work during the War of the Ring, but his influence was clear -- all targeted at the destruction of the Ring, from bringing it to Frodo in the first place, to destroying it when Frodo ultimately and inevitably fails (there are other moments where his influence is suggested, such as when Tom Bombadil stumbles upon the Hobbits just when they need him most, attributing it to something they’d call chance). Why would he exert his influence directly at the Hornburg, when having brought Gandalf back, he had indirectly ensured success there nonetheless? He did help at the Hornburg, but not completely directly.

I don’t see Tolkien’s use of deus ex machina as a flaw. Most of the time his use of what can be termed as such isn’t true deus ex machina because it is so well crafted into the tapestry that it is truly not Tolkien but the story that is creating the situation. And when he really does use it, he does so ’sparingly’, does avoiding the very flaw you mention, in my eyes.



<simul, believe it or not >

Lord Oakley 18/Dec/2006 at 10:37 AM
Huorn of Fangorn Points: 375 Posts: 25 Joined: 18/Dec/2006
I thank you for your comments Lord of the Rings and your kind words. Forgive for that error on my part regarding the Destruction of the Ring being divine intervention (as I said I am far from an expert on Tolkien)

I do agree that there are some cleverly disguised instances that appear to be D.e.M but are not actually but there are some others which are D.e.M. For instance when the ring goes into the fire and Frodo and Sam are left stranded, Gandalf miracously appears in the nick of time to get them out. Also, when Frodo calls on Tom Bombadil against the Barrow-Wight, Tom appears just at the last moment. Furthermore, Elrond manages to find the piece of the Wraith’s knife at the last moment when Frodo was "beginning to fade". I think that what makes D.E.M. obvious in LOTR is not a character conveniently having a weapon or object to hand but help arriving from them in the nick of time just at the moment when all could be lost.
Boromir88 18/Dec/2006 at 10:46 AM
Merchant of Minas Tirith Points: 3627 Posts: 2473 Joined: 24/Mar/2005

You are perfectly right in that Tolkien does use D.e.M’s as when he talks about his eagles he calls them ’machines.’  The Eagles were servants of Manwe, therefor when they would come in to ’help’ our heroes they could be called a use of DeM:
The Eagles are a dangerous ’machine’. I have used them sparingly, and that is the absolute limit of their credibility or usefulness.~Letter 210
Now the question comes on whether this is a fault or weakness of the stories.  Which is a definite objective question that has no correct answer.  You either think it’s a weakness or you don’t.

Personally, I think Tolkien uses it to such great effect that it is actually a strength of the story.  First I’ll note that some of the examples you site are not DeM as Deus es Machina translated to ’God of the Machines.’  And it is a device used by authors to solve a problem...however it means that there is some sort of god or supernatural creature of God’s that is involved.  For example the eagles, you also note the Sammath Naur, which Eru did get his hands involved (and I’ll get to that in a bit).  I don’t think the Helm’s Deep or Cirith Ungol are examples of DeM because there is not supernatural being/creature involved.  They just coincidentally happened to fight when Sam was coming. 

However, my own reading of Tolkien would suggest that, if Tolkien has Eru intervening here then why does he not in other, equally critical areas of the book such as Helms Deep where the fate of thousands rests on a Rohirric victory.

That is a good question and I think it comes down to the great effectiveness of Tolkien’s use of DeM.  As Lord of the Rings says Letters does have Tolkien explaining Eru’s involvement in the destruction of the Ring...and if we look at a few of them we can see the why?

Frodo deserved all honour because he spent every drop of his power and will, and that was just sufficient to bring him to the destined point, and no further. Few others, possibly no others of his time, would have got so far. The Other Power then took over: the Writer of the Story (by which I do not mean myself) ’that one ever present person who is never absent and never named’ (as one critic has said)~Letter 192

Looking at this Letter a lone can be misleading as it just seems like Eru felt like taking over because he’s Eru and he can.  Letter 181 and 246 go on to explain a little further:

’But at this point the ’salvation’ of the world and Frodo’s own ’savation’ is achieved by his previous pity and forgiveness of injury. At any point any prudent person would have told Frodo that Gollum would ceratinly betray him, and could rob him in the end. To ’pity’ him, to forbear to kill him, was a piece of folly, or a mystical beleif in the ultimate value-in-itself of pity and generosity even if disastrous in the world of time. He did rob him and injure him in the end- but by a ’grace’ that last betrayal was at a precise juncture when the final evil, deed was the most beneficial thing any one could have done for Frodo! By a situation , created by his ’forgiveness’,he was saved himself and releived of his burden.’~Letter 181

’’Frodo had done what he could and spent himself completely (as an instrument of Providence) and had produced a situation in which the object of his quest could be achieved. His humility (with which he began) and his sufferings were justly rewarded by the highest hounour; and his exercise of patience and mercy towards Gollum gained him Mercy: his failure was redressed.’’~Letter 246

We see Eru intervening in the situation with the Ring, but it wasn’t a matter of he wanted to so he did.  I think Tolkien uses the intervention of supernatural beings effectively because of a few reasons.

1) He uses it sparingly.
2) The reasons for it are much deeper and more complex than ’I need to find a way to get these guys out of here; let me bring in God.’  If we look at the Mount Doom situation, it wasn’t Eru helping out Frodo because he could.  It’s because Frodo had pitied Gollum and spared his life...which in turn saved Frodo’s life and Eru helped him out by relieving him of his burden (the Ring). 

If we look on throughout this story what is one of the biggest emphasis/morals Tolkien continually stresses throughout the entire book?  That is Pity and Mercy.  From the very early chapters of Gandalf telling Frodo about Bilbo’s pity towards Gollum and mentoring him about ’Pity’, to Aragorn Theoden and company sparing Grima and Saruman...offering them Pity, to Frodo pitying Gollum, and to hear the the destruction of the Ring...Eru pitying Frodo.  Since Frodo had spared Gollum’s life and did take to pity him, Eru felt like Frodo’s life deserved to be spared and relieved Frodo from his burden.

The intervention of Eru to destroy the Ring, Tolkien makes it fit into the rest of his story and fit in with one of the biggest themes of the story...pity and mercy.  It goes much deeper than I would give credit to other authors who also use DeM, because Tolkien thought it out and made it all fit in with the rest of the story.  Tolkien takes Deus es Machina and uses it to a great effect that makes it a strength of the story (at least for me). 

Great thread idea, you got me using by brain (which has been rather dormant lately) and welcome to the plaza.

Boromir88 18/Dec/2006 at 10:47 AM
Merchant of Minas Tirith Points: 3627 Posts: 2473 Joined: 24/Mar/2005
simuled with bunches again...
Darth Angelus 18/Dec/2006 at 10:56 AM
New Soul Points: 64 Posts: 79 Joined: 04/Jan/2006

An interesting topic, and like Phil_d_one, I doubt you’ll have to worry about your posting skills.

But this is an important issue of every fictional story. I think there may be some deus ex machina in LotR, but it is not something that has ever bothered me very much personally. I think Star Wars is much worse in that sense, for example. For the most part, the plot of LotR is very well written (I know your initial post never suggested otherwise, and you were very diplomatic about your points), which does rely on plausible enough explanations. But most fictional stories contain events that would seem very unlikely if they were real, no matter the secondary universe.

One thing that annoyed me a little at first was how Morgoth was overthrown at the end of The Silmarillion. I had been hoping for some free people’s heroics that would end the dark lord (like even the small person can matter, like most sagasm including LotR), but it turned out a man just sailed to request aid from the Valar, and an incredible army of higher beings (that is, the Host of the Valar) solved the problem and earned a victory the free peoples could never dream of achieving against an enemy who was just far too strong for them.
However, that hasn’t bothered me for many years now.

Lord Oakley 18/Dec/2006 at 11:35 AM
Huorn of Fangorn Points: 375 Posts: 25 Joined: 18/Dec/2006

whew! lucky I pressed refresh before posting! Simul city!

In resposne to Phil_D_One’s post:

Thank you Phil_D_One for your kinds words, it is certainly spirit lifting to hear comments like yours from an obviously learned plaza member and Tolkien lore master.

 

Interestingly enough, that is the quotation I always quote whenever somebody asks me “Why didn’t the eagles simply fly the ring to Mt. Doom?” as it shows that Tolkien never intended the eagles to be used in anything but the gravest of circumstances where no other solution was available to them.

 

there is, on a most basic level, debate as to what precisely the device was -- gunpowder, magic, or both -  If I may be allowed to address this issue here briefly I would suggest that both is indeed the correct response to this question. If we consider Saruman’s character. In his meeting with Gandalf he refers to himself as “Saruman of many colours” and Gandalf rebukes him “He who breaks a thing to see what it is made of has left the path of wisdom” which suggests that Saruman has indeed left the path of what Gandalf would call wisdom i.e. that path which deals with all that is good and has begun to tred the path of what he would call wisdom, i.e. utter power and control over those inferior. It would therefore seem logical that Saruman would not be content enough to settle for what he already has but wish to push things further and see what he could achieve by other means (hence the gunpowder) but additionally his ego and pride will not let disregard his own powers (which are undoubtedly great) thus he mixes the two.


With regard to your point about Sam and Frodo indirectly causing the fighting I would suggest that you are perfectly correct with this point as was it not over the Mithril shirt that the fighting first began? Having said this however do you think that Sam was lucky that the orcs he was dealing with happened to be greedy and stupid? As had he have run into some other evil being in Mordor, he may not have had such an easy time in rescuing Master Frodo.

 

Also, you raise an interesting issue when you mention Gandalf being sent back. This, I do not consider a Deus es Machina, simple because we know he was “passed out of thought and time” Therefore, to say that it was merely convenient that Gandalf happened to meet Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in Fangorn is nothing more than a misreading of the text as this somewhat demeans the “other power” that Gandalf refers to which I doubt would have been Tolkien’s intent when writing.

Something I must disagree with however is when you say even though his death means that his mission has failed”. I would say that this depends on how you view the word “failed” I would suggest that he has not failed entirely as his defiant stance against the Balrog where he says “I am the servant of the secret fire….” shows that even though he must perish, he can still save his friends by taking the Balrog away from them, hence giving them the chance to run. Here, Gandalf is the only one who keeps the mission to destroy the ring at the forefront of his mind. The others are all for fighting the Balrog and until Gandalf shouts “Fly you Fools!” they are preparing to help him. However, Gandalf sees that the mission to destroy the Ring and Sauron is far more important that his own life and so he sacrifices himself. Therefore he has not failed in his mission to protect Frodo as he has ensured the Fellowship’s (and more importantly the Ring’s) successful escape from Khazaddum. However, within the context of his mission when he first arrived on Middle Earth he has failed as he can no longer succeed in his first form as Gandalf the Grey (this would be make an interesting debate topic, does the plaza have a debating group? “Was Gandalf the White the same as Gandalf the Grey, even if only in Spirit?”!)

In reponse to Boromir 88’s post:

Throughout LOTR there are references to another power by which Tolkien does not mean Eru or any other Valar but someone or something outside of their control. For instance, Gandalf tells Frodo “you also were meant to have it” (my emphasis) additionally he mentions to Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli that he “passed out of space and time” after his fight with the Balrog. This suggests that some events in LOTR were controlled by a higher being other than Eru which would tie in nicely with what you said about the reasons for their intervention being much more complex than “These characters are in a bit of a sticky situation, God can help them out again because it’s easy”

I would now like to pose a question to you: Do you think that Eru or indeed another power only intervenes when the being concerned shows either blind faith in them or unquestionable heroic qualities, such as pity. Or that this is merely one reason for their intervention? The reason I ask is that one quotation you use is By a situation, created by his ’forgiveness’, he was saved himself and relieved of his burden. got me thinking. We are told that “It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand…the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many” after Bilbo showed pity to Gollum he was not only granted freedom from the caves but an  instantaneous reunion with all of his friends. Then, when Frodo pities Gollum and continually shows him mercy despite Sam’s objections he is rewarded with a safe return home. Furthermore, in showing Frodo pitying Gollum I believe that events have now come full circle. Long ago, Bilbo showed pity to Gollum and was rewarded and now Frodo, Bilbo’s nephew and heir pities him and his similarly rewarded.

In response to Darth Angelus’ post:

 

I do agree that fanatasy novels, by their very nature require the reader to suspend reality slightly. However, if we are not careful this ends up being something we continually tell ourselves whilst reading the book, thus preventing us from properly engaging with a text.

 

Captain Bingo 18/Dec/2006 at 02:46 PM
Messenger of Minas Tirith Points: 1573 Posts: 957 Joined: 31/Jan/2006
Deus ex Machina originates in classical drama, where the gods, when they appeared on stage, would appear via some clever contraption to solve the crisis. Hence ’God out the machine’.

What’s interesting is that the effect of the god’s appearance is not aimed at the characters so much as at the audience. And that effect is hope.

I’ve just watched the adaptation of Hogfather on Sky, & Death tells his grand-daughter something very interesting. He asks her at one point what the point of fantasy is - why fantasy is necessary for humans. She attempts an answer, but he corrects her. Fantasy, he states, is necessary in order that people learn to believe in impossible things - Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, (& I suppose, Elves, Dragons & Hobbits too). Because if you come to believe in the ’small’ fantasies you’re well on your way to believing in the big ones - like justice & mercy, & its only when you believe in them that you can start to make them real.

That’s what fantasy does, according to Tolkien - it opens you up to the possibility of ’Eucatastrophe’ - the unexpected turn of events, when all seems lost. By reading of those miraculous ’turns’ in LotR, we’re opened up to the possibility of hope when all seems lost.

Deus ex Machina isn’t a weakness of the story - its the whole point. Because what breaks in to the story is not so much ’Eru’ as ’Hope’ - the possibility that things can happen to make things right even when we think all is lost. Hence, the miraculous must make its appearance in the story so that we, the readers, can receive the greatest & most necessary gift in life - hope. Estel.
halfir 18/Dec/2006 at 04:19 PM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002
X( Very nicely put (using ’nice’ in its classical sense!)X(
Jinniver Thynne 19/Dec/2006 at 01:42 AM
Messenger of Minas Tirith Points: 994 Posts: 424 Joined: 28/Jan/2006

This is something I’ve just been discussing. I suppose for me I often see the term ’deus ex machina’ used in a derogatory way to imply something "oh so convenient" about a plot - whether it ought to be used in this way, and whether I ought to read the term ’deus ex machina’ in that way is another question but that’s where I’m starting from.

So to me, a ’deus ex machina’ would be something which jarred, which did not fit with the context of the story. And I find little of that in Tolkien’s work, especially not in LotR. The way that Gollum falls with the Ring is to me perfect; he gains a chance of ’redemption’, it fits with what his character has become (i.e. entirely driven by the Ring) and neatly deals with the problem of what would a writer do with a Gollum once the Ring had gone!

I can see why some cannot get around the problem of the Eagles, however close attention to the story shows exactly why the White Council simply could not send an ’Eagle Bomber’ over Mount Doom to drop in the Ring. That would be a ridiculous idea as it must be these seemingly insignificant Hobbits who do something incredible, get to Mordor, fly ’under the radar’ and do what Sauron least expected. Taken in that context, having the Eagles come in to the rescue after the Ring is destroyed is perfectly acceptable.

When Tolkien says that the Eagles are ’dangerous machines’ I can see what he means as it would be all too tempting for the writer of a fantasy story, at moments of writer’s block to simply chuck in a ’magical event’ to get his heroes out of a spot of bother. But this would indeed be dangerous! It risks snapping the reader out of that previously consistent, in-context and believable story, and the job of the storyteller is to keep us enthralled and keep us trapped in that story. So something like ginat Eagles would be all too tempting for a writer who was struggling! I don’t get the sense of being ’jarred’ at all when reading LotR, it’s all consistent.

halfir 19/Dec/2006 at 01:56 AM
Emeritus Points: 46547 Posts: 43664 Joined: 10/Mar/2002

 keep us trapped in that story.......I don’t get the sense of being ’jarred’ at all when reading LotR,

JT:X( Current vernacular for ’the Enchanted State’;X( the Secondary World is totally credible!

Battlehamster 19/Dec/2006 at 05:48 PM
Horse-lord of the Mark Points: 1401 Posts: 515 Joined: 10/Nov/2006
Quote: Originally posted by Captain Bingo on Monday, December 18, 2006
I’ve just watched the adaptation of Hogfather on Sky, & Death tells his grand-daughter something very interesting.

Wait.  They made a movie of Hogfather?!  And I didn’t know about it?!  Did it suck or was it halfway decent?

And I will say something about the topic instead of just spamming:

I agree that Tolkien did use DeM, but I don’t think that he used it enough to actually make it a flaw.  Whenever something that could be considered DeM appears, it is worked in enough to not seem like DeM, like Elrond, the fight at Minas Morgul etc...  The only thing that seemed blatantly DeM was the eagles, and thar was saved because it was so obviously GeM: it was the eagles of Manwe coming to the rescue.  But it didn’t seem like they did too much to lessen the impact of the story.

I have to admit I agree about the overthrow of Morgoth.  I mean, all this has happened and now you decide it’s time to get rid of him?  Talk about "as flies to wanton boys."

Captain Bingo 20/Dec/2006 at 01:01 AM
Messenger of Minas Tirith Points: 1573 Posts: 957 Joined: 31/Jan/2006
Hogfather was shown last Sunday/Monday on Sky in two two hour episodes, with Mr Pratchett himself in a cameo. It was very good, actually. Made me want to read some more of the books (I stopped after Pyramids - & I read that when it came out in paperback, many, many years ago). DVD is due out soon, apparently.
Darth Angelus 20/Dec/2006 at 10:37 AM
New Soul Points: 64 Posts: 79 Joined: 04/Jan/2006
Quote: Originally posted by Lord Oakley on Monday, December 18, 2006

In response to Darth Angelus’ post:

 

I do agree that fanatasy novels, by their very nature require the reader to suspend reality slightly. However, if we are not careful this ends up being something we continually tell ourselves whilst reading the book, thus preventing us from properly engaging with a text.

 


Agreed. Suspension of disbelief is everything in fiction. However, I meant that I could accept more unbelievable things because it is fictional, but you are right, there is a limit.
I guess I just never thought LotR did go too far.

Blossom Boffin 23/Dec/2006 at 06:18 PM
Farmer of the Shire Points: 598 Posts: 75 Joined: 17/Dec/2006
Quote: Originally posted by Jinniver Thynne on Tuesday, December 19, 2006

So to me, a ’deus ex machina’ would be something which jarred, which did not fit with the context of the story. And I find little of that in Tolkien’s work.




I agree with this point entirely. Lord Oakley, I would argue that neither of the cases you cite are truly deus ex machina, at least not in the classical sense. Particularly in the case of Sam--the fact that the orcs are too busy arguing amongst themselves to notice him isn’t deus ex machina so much as coincidence or convenience. If Sam had been surrounded by orcs on all sides, lost his weapon, they were closing in...and suddenly a big hand which had never been seen before in the story dropped down and plucked him to safety, that would be more accurate. You know the scene in Life of Brian where the alien space ship randomly flies in and rescues Brian at the last possible second? That’s deus ex machina.

Again, the situation with Gollum at the end isn’t so much deus ex machina (I would argue) as events playing out in a logical way, and one which Tolkien has been leading up to. I think there are very few instances in Tolkien, if any, where something totally unconnected to the plot swoops in to save the characters at the last minute, and that is how I would define deus ex machina.