BBC’s Radio 3 on our perception of ‘canonicity’/retconning & how those concepts may have been applied to the shaping of judeo-christian faiths.
“It’s a simple ethos – it doesn’t matter what the odds are, you fight the good fight and don’t give in to despair. The Norse gods know that they are going to lose Ragnarok. It doesn’t matter, they will go into battle anyways. The Battle of Maldon – it’s hopeless after Beortnoth stupidly yields the river, but his men show their virtue and courage by fighting to the end. Beowulf? A man cannot escape his weird/fate/doom, but that doesn’t allow him to lie down and not try. God smiles on those who try.
Don’t give up, Mr. Frodo.
Húrin, atop the battle of the slain in the Nírnaeth Arnoediad – 70 times he raised his axe, 70 times the cry LIGHT SHALL COME AGAIN rang out over the battlefield, before he was overcome and taken to the feet of Morgoth.
Aragorn and the Captains of the West in front of the Black Gate.
The strains of the Ainur competing in the Music of Illuvatar – the first two themes strive against Melkor, but the third theme (mortals) takes the highest triumphs of the Melkor’s music and weaves it into it’s own sad melody, finding victory out of tragedy.
Despair is the only sin in this ethos – cowardice, giving up, abandoning your task, just because the odds are against you.
This is (obviously) a fundamental part of my own belief system. It’s why I say that Tolkien really is my bible – the Music of the Ainur is what I cling to for guidance, for saying: no matter how bad things get, don’t give up, make it through, and the song that will be sung at the end of my days might be a sad one – but it will be a triumphant one, too.
There’s a lot in here – virtuous pagans is an unexplored direction to go in – but the northern european ethos/theory of courage is embodied in the Storm Peaks/Ulduar storyline. If you give up and give in to despair (and then later, madness) – the world ends. GONE.
It’s couched in WoW terms, with a lot of mechanical elements, but it’s Ragnarok all over again.”
— JRR Tolkien, The Monsters & The Critics
Mythology, legend, the lore of the folk, those tales that were once as real to their believers as a sunrise, hardly exist today even as reference points. In our haste to update educational standards, we have done away with the older gods, so that now all that we have left are names without faces, mnemonics without meaning.
A child conversant with the old tales accepts them with an ease born of familiarity, fitting them into his own scheme of things, endowing them with new meaning. That old fossil, those old bones, walk again, and sing and dance and speak with a new tongue. The old stories bridge the centuries."
— Jane Yolen, Touch Magic