Second of my posts about MidMoot 3.
Jason Ray Carney: The real business of Bilbo, the dreams of Conan, and the Rhetoric of the Ordinary
Ten points for originality here – who would have thought to compare Bilbo Baggins to Conan the Cimmerian?
The take-away is that The Hobbit has clear dividing lines between the ordinary world and the fantastical world, but Conan stories don’t. Bilbo steps across physical thresholds. He’s startled by the differences he finds in Wilderland. For Conan, though, swordfights with fantastic monsters are portrayed as “all in a day’s work”.
The other thing Bilbo and Conan have in common is drinking parties. The Unexpected Party is all about defining individuals through their different appetites. When Conan is drinking in a tavern, no characters are identified. They’re all left in an undifferentiated blur to convey hostility and suspicion.
Corey pointed out that the distinction arises because Conan himself is the fantastical adventurer, walking around in a normal world. Bilbo is the only normal guy, surrounded by adventurers.
Kevin Hensler: Soteriology of Non-human Rational Beings in Lewis and Tolkien
I learned a new word – “soteriology” is the branch of theology dealing with salvation. If you’re not human, do you need salvation from anything? C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien both addressed this question after their fashion, and came to different answers. (no surprise there.)
Lewis ran through lots of possibilities for non-humans, and didn’t much like any of them. Narnians need salvation, or Aslan wouldn’t have been sacrificed. Perelandrans don’t need salvation because they’re prelapsarian.
Tolkien’s elves go to Mandos, but they don’t outlive the world. Kevin says they require salvation from death. Are they to be saved by humans, at the very end, as humans bring about the restoration of Arda? Interesting concept. Cascading salvation, as Jesus saves humanity, then humanity saves everyone else.
I’m not sure I understood that (isn’t damnation what people need to be saved from?), but I know even less about theology than I know about Linear A, so I won’t presume to challenge Kevin on it. In any case, it won’t astonish anyone to find out that JRRT was much more conservative than CSL on the question.
Laura Lee Smith: Evil Incarnate in Perelandra and Charles Williams’s “The Noises that Weren’t There”
Charles Williams only wrote a few parts of the novel he planned to call Clarissa. The parts he did write were published in Mythlore as “The Noises that Weren’t There”. C.S. Lewis wrote Perelandra just before Williams started his project.
Both works involve an evil spirit taking human shape. When Lee uses the phrase “evil incarnate”, she’s speaking literally. There are a lot of parallels in how Lewis and Williams portrayed the concept: unnatural smiles; the eyes give the evil away; the bodies are like puppets with an amateur puppeteer in charge, gradually learning the tricks of moving like a human.
(Irrelevant thing I thought at this point: that’s like zombies. Zombies are no good at controlling human bodies, but vampires are better at it than we are.)
Williams never got to finish his murder mystery, but the setup gave us a lot of things to discuss about Lewis. I loved the part of Perelandra where Ransom slowly comes to realize that he doesn’t have some rational, modern task before him. His job is just to beat the snot out of the Un-Man. Literally to fight evil. Lee points out that this is exactly what got asked of the Inklings’ generation in the World Wars: sure you’re an academic literary critic or a philologist or whatever, but what we need is for you to go fight the Kaiser with guns and bayonets in the mud.