The Lord of the Rings The Lord of the Rings discussion

The Shadow in Middle Earth (and Narnia, Panem, Lyra's Oxford, etc)

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message 1: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Weed What do the greatest YA books have in common? In my view, it's the presence of the archetypal Shadow:

What do you think?

message 2: by Артём (last edited Jun 04, 2012 05:16AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Артём Багинский There is also a shadow thing in the Earthsea books (first appearing in A Wizard of Earthsea).

My humble analysis would be:

The shadows are considered more evil than light because a predator can hide in them and humans can't see as well in the shadow as some leopard or whatever it was that was hunting them down before they invented weapons - cave bear or a sabertooth. That distant memory of danger is all I need to understand the "Archetypal Shadow".

The personal shadow, it's attached to you, looks and acts like you, but it has no face - that's creepy enough to make it into stories. I guess when ancient died they wondered where their shadows went and decided that they inhabited the underworld, which must be a scary place if it's full of people without faces.

One can invent such shady theories dozen a dime without invoking a shadow of Carl Jung, no?

message 3: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Weed Yes, very good points! But it's a little more complex than that, too. Jung's analysis is something writers of stories would do well to consider, especially as it applies to how characters are created, and how stories are structured. I'd be interested in your reaction to Part II of this analysis, which I'll post next Sunday.

Артём Багинский I also vaguely recall a fascinating Personal Shadow episode in Genghis Khan (Mongol Invasion, #1)/Чингиз-хан, something about cutting someone's shadow off then sawing it back on or something like that.

My problem with what I read in Part I is how Jung seems to treat metaphors as something ... tactile. I prefer my fiction recognizing itself as such. But may be I misunderstand.

Looking forward to Part II.

message 5: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Weed Yes, I think I understand. Jung wasn't a fiction writer himself, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from him.

Артём Багинский Correction, of course I meant "sewing it back on" :-)

message 7: by Артём (last edited Jun 05, 2012 01:55PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Артём Багинский I've made a tiny research into the use of the word "shadow" (Russian - «тень») in Genghis Khan (Mongol Invasion, #1)/Чингиз-хан

The first Shadow passage: "...Kara-Konchar is a shadow of the night that chases the villain, - said the Turkmen [who is actually is Kara-Konchar himself, as the reader finds out shortly], - Kara-Konchar is a dagger of vengeance, spear of wrath and a sword of retribution...". Note, how the shadow here is something good.

And the episode I was trying to recall earlier goes like: "...Dervish, mumbling hadiths under his breath, was sewing a pink rag atop the faded blue, red and green patches with a large needle. Turgan stood, rocking himself, full of resentment and desperation. His black shadow jumped on dervish's lap. "See, boy, - said the dervish, - I've sewn a new patch on my cloak and your shadow fell on it. I've sewn your shadow to the cloak too. Now you're bound to me and will follow me like a shadow".

The word is used very often in the book, metaphorically ("a shadow of God", "a shadow of the prophet", "the shadow of Khorezm [a powerful medieval state where the book's events take place]", "the solemn shadow of Genghis Khan" - not in a literal sense, but meaning his influence, "a sacred shadow" - meaning "a deceased person" in Mongol tradition) or less so - in the sense "a person in twilight" or "a person whom the character doesn't see clearly [yet]".

Sometimes it is meant literally, but still in very symbolical context: "...there grew a sycamore nearby, so tall that its shadow covered the mosque and protected dervish's shack from heat"

Most other cases refer to the Turgan character (the boy that follows the dervish).

To do a deeper analysis I would need to reread the book (I read it more than 20 years ago as a teenager).

message 8: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Weed Great stuff! I find that great Shadow description often blends the literal and the metaphorical. Lord of the Rings is an example of a book where the Shadow is ubiquitous in the characters and the landscape - you can find it on almost every page.

I'll be very interested in your reaction to Part II, which I'll post a link to here when it comes out.

Gary Lawrence Tim I am sure you have considered the number of great artists in any genre who would test as somewhere as abnormal on the mental health spectrum. I suspect all have to be obsessive to an extent but there seem to be a lot of writers who hear voices in their heads.
The downside seems to be a higher than average rate of social isolation and suicide. I believe there is research around that shows that treatment to return such sad people closer to "normal" also reduces their creativity. Maybe drugs and or therapy shines a bright torch on the shadow inside and suddenly it isn't there any more.

message 10: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Weed Gary, yes, I believe all writers hear voices in their heads. Whether that makes them abnormal would seem to be an open question!

Артём Багинский Same thing again: runaway metaphor. I hear a voice in my head just to type this reply. The problem (abnormality) is not the voice per se, but one's inability to distinguish one's own inner voices from some unfamiliar third party or force.

message 12: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Weed Here's Part II of the Shadow in Fiction post:


Артём Багинский In the quote from Tolkien I can see the contrast between light and darkness (shadow) used to illustrate the good and evil forces. But some of the other references I don't really understand, perhaps because there are no quotes?

For example, I do agree that a hero and villain are the opposites, but I don't understand what's the use of calling the villain a hero's shadow? I mean... I understand the functional relationship between Frodo and Gollum - they fall into similar circumstances (possession of the Ring) but deal with the situation differently. What do we gain by saying Gollum is Frodo's Personal Shadow?

I like your analysis of the children from Narnia as a composite character. And again, I can see Edmund serving a similar function in the story as Gollum... Is "Personal Shadow" sort of moniker for this function then?

I'm not sure I understand what's Cultural Shadow or what's the difference between it and the Archetypal Shadow.

message 14: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Weed Good questions. I think it's useful to look at the villain as the hero's shadow to the extent that it helps the writer in the struggle to define a fictional hero. It's not intended as some kind of reductive theory that forecloses other lines of inquiry or quashes the deeper meanings of literature.

The Jungian angle is merely one way of looking at fictional characters (there are many others), but I have found in my own work that breaking it down this way can provide extremely interesting insights into the hero's character and the story's central struggle. As with any analysis of this nature, though, it's important for a writer to take only what he or she can use, and leave the rest.

As to the difference between the cultural and the archetypal shadows, I don't think there's a neat dividing line. I see the cultural shadow as being more reflective of a particular society, while the archetypal shadow is more universal, and more reflective of our deep inner natures as human beings (the "collective unconscious").

The archetypal shadow is the stuff of nightmares, and goes back, as I think you or someone else alluded to before, to a time when our distant ancestors were afraid of being taken as prey in the middle of the night.

message 15: by Артём (last edited Jun 11, 2012 02:22AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Артём Багинский I see. Thanks.

That could be quite useful angle to look at texts.

It would be interesting to apply this sort of analysis to less clear cut / more ambiguos works, like Dying Earth series or Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion books. I reread the Dying Earth books recently and they are full of shadows, visually, I bet they have a lot of Jungian Shadows as well. May be such works contrast the shadows to what's not on the page? Sort of remind us of the light by focusing on the shadow, if you know what I mean.

message 16: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Weed I do think I see what you mean. The Road by Cormac McCarthy is another book that's full of Shadow. There's only one glimpse of light in the whole book, but it manages to be an amazingly enriching read nonetheless.

I hadn't thought of it this way before, but I think there's a lot of truth to what you say about focusing on the shadow reminding us of the light. Thank you.

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