Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Tolkien Was Right!

I've been using a lot of end punctuation in my post titles lately. That's just not normal, at least not for me. As a former newspaper man, the idea of writing a headline as a complete sentence deserving of end punctuation goes against years of training, and I really try to avoid the question title. It's kind of hokey, especially if used too much. Today's title is even worse. I think I could add up the number of exclamation points I've used in anything I've ever written on my fingers and toes. A much wilder estimate would require the digits of my wife and child as well, but I tend to avoid that particular punctuation mark even more than I do the semicolon. Part of it is training, not much room for exclamation in journalism, formal classroom, and academic writing, but I also think it goes with my personality. I just don't get that worked up about things. The exclamation point is the most high strung of punctuation marks and I'm not a high-strung fellow.

Of course, that lengthy aside has nothing to do with my point. I actually came here today to talk about homo floresiensis, a species nicknamed the hobbit by its discoverers because of its small size. There has been a lot of controversy over whether or not this is an actual separate species or just a diseased pygmy human, in part because it's too recent of a set of remains to fit into the normal time span of alternate human species. However, recent discoveries as the bones have been studied in detail suggest that much of the structure of the feet and wrists more resemble modern apes and more primitive hominids than modern people.

Where Tolkien comes in (other than the species' nickname) is that apparently h. floresiensis had really big feet, at least to scale, just like the hobbits of Lord of the Rings. It's a shame these remains are from a tropical south Asian island and not Siberia. It would be awesome to find one of these guys frozen in some ancient glacier complete with rather hairy feet and simple farming implements.

This does rework my visualization of Tolkien's trilogy, however. I'd always pictured the Shire more like the English countryside and the fortresses and such more like medeival architecture. Instead, perhaps I should have been thinking of hot, rainy jungles, and castles more like Angkor Wat* than the typical motte-and-bailey. The hobbits were probably tending to rice paddies instead of wheat fields. This shift in geography would explain how so many drastically different cultures could fit into such a seemingly compact geography, though. Traditional societies in Western Papua are absolutely nothing like what is on Java. I always thought of the Elves as sailing off to the Americas from Europe at the end of the series, but now I'm guessing they sailed to Australia instead.

* I am fully aware than Angkor Wat is not in Indonesia. However, it's the most recognizable example of Hindu architecture outside of India. Angkor also had close trade and political ties with Java at one time. I'm such a freaking dork.


Julie said...

Are you kidding?!

Jacob said...

About what?

Julie said...

Nothing. I just thought you would appreciate the fact that I used a question mark and an exclamation in one sentence. I flaunt my use of punctuation.

A Free Man said...

If I can punctuate properly at all I'm happy.

I like the idea of the elves sailing to Australia. Why would they want to go to America - far too many Wal-Marts for their reclusive race.

courtney said...

Exclamation points are necessary sometimes! Especially if you're using real-life science to bring Tolkien to life! Of course, if you use too many you end up sounding like a valley girl! See what I mean?! Gag me with a spoon!

I think the little round huts like Frodo lived in would fit in better in Australia. I have no basis for that, but it makes sense to me.