Sunday, April 17, 2011

J. R. R. Tolkien Quotes Simone de Beauvoir

I've just watched a two-part video that has recently been released by the BBC; the video was originally broadcast in March 1968 as part of the BBC series In Their Own Words British Authors and features J. R. R. Tolkien, with comments from Oxford students who reflect on his work. It's quite a treat (if you can overlook the overly spacey soundtrack).

I had some difficulty understanding Tolkien himself, at times; he speaks quietly and quite rapidly, and with the accent, well, there were a few phrases that got past me.

Toward the latter part of part two, Tolkien reads from a quote by Simone de Beauvoir, French existential philosopher and social theorist. Since Tolkien felt this quote significant enough to read in its entirety, I thought I would share the quote with you here, and then embed below the two videos, should you choose to view them. [It is actually a single 26½-minute video that has been split into two parts.] Now, the quote:

"There is no such thing as a natural death: nothing that happens to a man is ever natural, since his presence calls the world into question. All men must die: but for every man his death is an accident and, even if he knows it and consents to it, an unjustifiable violation."
—Simone de Beauvoir

Part 1; time 13:46 --

Part 2; time 12:48 --

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  1. does he also say that these words (from de Beauvoir) are the key something for LOTR??

  2. Alphonso,

    Unfortunately it's been a year and a half since I posted this and watched the vids -- so, I don't recall the content that surrounds Tolkien 's use of this quote, but...

    I have to assume that de Beauvoir had a strong influence on JRRT -- and I like the idea in TLOTR that all death is an accident.

    Thanks for your comment. Cheers,
    - marty

  3. He does say it's the key of LOTR.

  4. the term is "key-spring" which already means point of inspiration or origin, and for him to use it you can bet he meant something analogous to "let there be light"

    I also found it fascinating he used this quote, considering that my first introduction to Beauvoir was an essay my uncle wrote in Catholic seminary that blamed her for starting the feminist movement, etc. (which the Vatican has insinuated was an indirect cause for their sexual abuse epidemic). Tolkien was always a free-thinking Catholic.

    But, with a grain of salt it's worth noting he found the quote printed in an obituary for one of his favorite composers. All the same, he's keen to pronounce her name in an accent that's so authentic you'd think he was her friend.

    1. Sean,
      I'm glad that you finally found this blog post, and responded as well. Thanks for your comment, and insight.
      - martyh