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March 17, 2023

Tolkien and Creativity: Creation as Jazz - Part 1

Tolkien and Creativity: Creation as Jazz - Part 1

Where in all the fantasy worlds is the best place to be a Jazz player?

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One of the most inspiring aspects of Tolkien's work is his thinking about creativity. Following a question from a listener, Jacob Rennaker and Julia Golding discuss this using the poem Mythopoeia, the short story Leaf by Niggle and the essay 'On Fairy Stories' - all must-reads for Tolkien fans and anyone interested in writing fantasy. How does free will fit in the world of a Creator - and what has jazz music got to do with it? What was wrong with Feanor? And what is the value of the things you make? Stay tuned for musings about the spin-off series about the Star Wars Cantina band and much more! For those who are interested, here's a link to the Benjamin Saxton article mentioned during the conversation - well worth a read!

[Music] Welcome to the first part of Tolkien and Creativity. It's such a huge subject that we split the podcast into two parts. Hello and welcome to Myth Makers. Myth Makers is the podcast for fantasy fans and fantasy creatives brought to you by the Oxford Centre for Fantasy. My name is Julia Golding, I'm the Director of the Centre and I'm also an author and one of my frequent favourite guests to have with me on this podcast is Jacob Renneker and so I'll let Jacob introduce himself this time. Thank you, hi Julia and hi everyone else. I'm Jacob Renneker, I am a scholar of the fantastic including Tolkien and mythology. I'm also a narrative designer for Robinsburger Games. Brilliant. I love the way, Jacob, that you combine both the academic interests with a very practical outworking of this, thinking about how does this translate into narrative games. It seems that fantasy does this brilliantly. It lends itself to leaving the world of fantasy and going into other areas. Right, we have decided today to tackle the topic which interests both of us really fundamentally, and that is Tolkien and creativity. So you get a sense of the text that we're dealing with to discuss this particular subject. We're going to focus in on three with a gesture towards, obviously, the works everybody knows from Tolkien being The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and The Hobbit. The three which you may be less familiar with are a piece called Mythopoeia, something called Leaf by Niggle, and an essay called On Fairy Stories. So perhaps Jacob, you might want to tell us what each of these pieces are where do they fit in Tolkien's canon? - Yeah, yeah, yeah. And yeah, here's, so and you, the way that you lay them out was chronologically, which is fantastic. I think that works really well. So "Mithopoeia" is the first of these three pieces. It's a poem written probably around 1931 or so. And this is, so, and we'll get to the specifics of the texts individually. So just kind of broad strokes, this kind of seems to have grown out of a conversation that he had with C.S. Lewis and Hugo Dyson and debating the merits of myth. If myth is viewed as something that is simply not true or not historical, this is Tolkien's kind of refutation of that position held by Lewis. And so it's not a terribly long poem, but it is dense with allusions, meaning, and well worth considering. You kind of see here the working out of his ideas of the value of creativity in life in general and how meaning--yeah, go ahead. Yeah, and unusually, Mithupia, I don't really associate this with Tolkien. think of his poetry, I think of them as stories, story poems, ballads very often, and comic verse. Myth Appear is more like something you'd expect from Alexander Pope's essay on criticism or essay on man or something. It's stating an argument. So it seems in quite an unusual poetic tradition for Tolkien. Am I wrong about that? Or is it the only one like this? It's the only one that I think is like genuinely kind of self-reflective, whereas most of them, like you said, he's kind of telling stories about something else. And what he's doing in his verse elsewhere is creating himself, you know, kind of secondary worlds or embedding stories that exist within a secondary world. So this is meant to be read in the context of our world, our reality. So in that sense, I think it's, it certainly stands apart in that way from how he conceptualized the stories that he was creating and the poems that he was writing. Yeah, and if there's any super duper expert out there who actually can come up with another example for us, let us know because we're not, it's possible we may have missed something, but I think it's the only piece like this. Okay, so that's Mythopoeia. The next one is Leaf by Niggle. So tell us about this and how people can read it. Where is, where do they find it? Yeah, so this one is in, you can find it in a few different places. You can find it, I believe you can find it in the Tolkien Reader. I know you can find it in Tree and Leaf, which is a collection of essays, which is where you can find all these three works. There you are. For those who are watching this, this is an old version of Tree and Leaf, but you can get a more up-to-date version. But yeah, it's collected in that. Yeah, Harper Collins in the United States, I believe, is the publisher of that. And yeah, So that one, so you can find it there. It was originally published in a journal and it was published, I think 1945 is when it was actually published, but it was probably written in 1938, 39. And situating this within Tolkien's works, this is, he's been working on, in this stretch of time, working on Lord of the Rings, but he's kind of let the manuscript sit. Well, it's been several years, it seems, that he's let it just kind of marinate. He'd been quite frustrated with the process. He had this, there was this giant tree in his backyard that he could see while he was laying in bed. His wife was very worried about the tree because with the wind and whatnot, she was afraid that it might damage the house. So they clip it. Tolkien thought it was a tragedy of epic proportions that this beautiful tree was being hideously disfigured. So thinking about this tree and it just like it kind of touched something in him and he started kind of reflecting upon his own creative life. So this is kind of I think among the most autobiographical you'll get of Tolkien's work aside from the letters where he's explicitly talking about day-to-day things that happen and instances. But this is really a moment where Tolkien is in the midst of his frustration of writing Lord of the Rings, reflecting on what it means to be an author of the fantastic, an author of something that other people might sneer at or think is being not worthy of engaging with or reading or something that's silly or meant for children. What does that mean? What does that look like? And we'll get to some of the details there. But this appears to have this process of working through his own kind of creative anxieties, maybe even some regrets. It seemed to have maybe catalyzed something in him that gave him what he needed to get back to the Lord of the Rings manuscript and complete it. So then that was published. Then later this essay or story, Leaf by Miggle, is published after Lord of the Rings, but it was written prior to the full publication and that's where it fit in that process. Yeah, and before people start writing in, I think it might have been a neighbor's tree. Was it a neighbor's tree? Possibly, because I was just rereading it today and I think he doesn't sound as though he's responsible for the lopping of this tree. So let's not blame the Tolkien family for tree massacre. Then finally, we've got On Fairy Stories, which is also widely available in various critical editions. Helpfully, it's also available in the Tree and Leaf paperbacks that we mentioned, where you can find the Leaf by Niggle for the obvious reason that they're coming at the same topic from different directions. So tell us about the On Fairy Stories, the origin of that particular piece. Yeah, so with On Fairy Stories, so it came out of a lecture that Tolkien was asked to give at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. And this was the annual Andrew Lang lectures. Andrew Andrew Lang, famously known for the different fairy books, right? So you have the blue fairy book, red, going through all the colors of the rainbow. And he was a collector of myths from the world itself. And so that was kind of his legacy was collecting, discussing, comparing different world myths, including fairy stories, which Tolkien kind of argues introduces a kind of subcategory of myth, a different, slightly different thing. Not all myths are fairy tales. And so he was asked to give this lecture and he takes that lecture and then revises it and it becomes an essay that's published. And this is longer, right? So this is a more kind of, this is much more academic. So you have three, so with these three, we kind of have three different modes of bookings, right? So, poetry, you have a prose story and then here you have kind of like an academic article, more or less. And they're all, like you said, like you said, Julia, it's kind of, they're all getting at the same thing but in three different modes of imagination, right? Academic imagination, kind of the narrative imagination, the poetic imagination. So, it's fascinating and really to read. You get a lot out of each one of these individually, but in reading them together, you really get a three-dimensional view of Tolkien's ideas about what imagination does, humanity's innate ability to imagine, and individual responsibility and privilege of creating something through imagination. And they're also not very long. So if you're listening to this thinking, it's not like you're embarking on a new Lord of the Rings. So we all would have loved another Lord of the Rings, I'm sure. But these are things you can sit one afternoon and read. Right. So where I absolutely fell in love with Tolkien both as really as a, you know, aside from being the reader, coming later in life being the writer, was the way he helped me formulate my own ideas about what it meant to be creative. Let's start with the idea of a sub-creator. We're not going to spend very much time thinking about this in the religious sense, but for Tolkien it does line up with his faith position because he referenced it overtly. So for him, the creator with the big C is God and here he's quoting from Genesis with the creation narratives. Particularly the second version of this, two creation narratives in Genesis which people who read the Silmarillion will find very familiar. The second one, when it comes to - is it the second one or the first one? "I create man in my own image" is the first one. The point there is, well, we're not all powerful gods. So what does that mean? It means we are created to be creative. There's a wonderful phrase in T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, which is basically this idea, which is we create by the law by which we are created. It's sort of a circular, I've misquoted that, but it's a beautiful line in the Four Quartets. T.S. Eliot was adjacent to the Inkling group. He was friends with Charles Williams in particular. So there is this idea, washing around amongst literary people in the mid-20th century who were of a Christian mindset, that one way of expressing being made in the image of God is to go ahead and be creative. The way Tolkien puts this is thinking of the author as a sub-creator. So you've got God, he creates us. We then create our own worlds in our literary output, our music, our art, painting a leaf in the case of Niggle, and so on. But perhaps the very, very best place we can actually understand this is by looking at how Tolkien expresses it in the beginning of the Silmarillion in the music of the Valar. Now, Jacob, I know you love this particular part of the Silmarillion and you pronounce the names more fluently than me. Would you like to just quickly sketch out the creation stories in the Silmarillion and how they link to creativity? Yeah, so the Ainulindale is the creation story there at the very beginning of the Silmarillion And you have your all-powerful god, essentially, Eru Iluvatar. And this creator, primary creator, creates the Valar. And he calls them to participate in the creation of the world. And so to do that, the metaphor that's used is music. And so each of these individuals that were created by Iluvatar have their own minds, they have their own wills, and they kind of freely participate in this. And they participate in different ways. They each bring kind of a different voice to a song. And they're singing-- so the creator, Iluvatar, kind of creates a theme. And, you know, I'm going to say like a musical theme. And he says, okay, now as a conductor, he kind of acts as a conductor and says, okay, now we'll play this name and they play. And everyone is kind of going along and doing their own thing. Well, not doing their own thing. They're doing it within the content of this within the song. But then one of the voices ends up kind of drowning out the others kind of trying to draw more attention to themselves. They want to break out of that theme. They find it restrictive, constraining in some way, and just want to be able to do that themselves out of the context of Alou Vittar's song, his theme. So they stop, start again, try it again, and then it works out a little more. But then what Alou Vittar is doing is he's waiting. He's giving these individuals a chance to still do their thing, bring their own voices, see where it goes, but again, within the whole theme. And then again, one voice causes too much commotion, and he brings it to an end. And then the third one, what Ilúvatar does is he kind of leans into the dissonance created by one of these voices and weaves it into the rest of the music. And the music itself becomes more beautiful for that interweaving of this-- what was seen as being chaotic, perhaps wrong, evil. That is woven into this along with themes of sorrow. And they're all woven together and creates this kind of beautiful whole that then the Valar-- essentially, that was kind of the dress for the actual physical creation of the world. And then what you have in What Follows in the Silmarillion is kind of the working out of the creation of Arda, of the world. But then you also have that as kind of a spelling out of history and how it's going to work out in Middle-Earth, specifically. -Yeah, and it's-- -Yeah, that's the thumbnail. It's a definite echo, for those of you who've read your Milton, it's a definite echo of how it's set up in Paradise Lost loss with the sort of, "Here's the whole story, but here's the working out of it" structure. I was thinking about this morning and I got very excited about the idea of Tolkien's idea of music for creation is very much like jazz. Maybe that will help people think about...So when Ilúvatar is saying, "Here's the theme," it's like the person on the piano or whoever's in lead position saying, "Here's the theme." And then he delights. They delight in it being played by the rest of the jazz band, who are the Valar. And you can see where it goes wrong, because in a jazz band, it's really not the ticket. If somebody says, "I want to be the soloist all the time," you know, they do the drum solo and never give way again to the guy on the saxophone. So that's what's going on with Melchor. He keeps coming out with the equivalent, I think it's called trumpets. He keeps trying to sort of destroy the band. And that's why it's wrong because he's breaking out of the...he's spoiling the beauty. As you say, there's a way that the even cleverer musician is able to even take those rogue elements and make them beautiful again. I think one of the areas where you see this is an area of free will, isn't it? So the idea is that though the god of this piece, the Ilúvatar, says, "Here's the theme, chaps, chapesses, off you go," he is allowing them to express it through their own interpretation. So that's the free will. I mean, it's always a philosophical problem, free will. (laughs) But there is a difference between the working out of someone like, I do say Aeoli, who creates the dwarves, and Melkor, who creates the orcs. Do you wanna sort of unpack what's wrong about - Yeah. - dwarves versus the orcs for thing? - Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I think, and I have to refer our listeners back to our much more sustained conversation on orcs. Yeah. We went more information about the creation of orcs than you probably ever knew. We've done that. We didn't want to know. Right, we've done that. And it's fascinating, but it does tie into this directly. You're right. So whereas, so just kind of referring back to what we talked about with Melkor, Melkor is, depending on which version of Tolkien's creation of the orcs, It's either, you know, kind of a, it is no matter what it's done, it's done in mockery. It's their perversion and or mockery of, uh, the Louverture's creation of, uh, the Louverture's children, which were elves and men, um, specifically. And then I suppose you could fall under that then the, uh, hobbits, uh, for, for those kinds of fall in there. Although what the Silmarillion is primarily concerned about is elves, right? It's written from the elvish perspective, and then men. You don't really have hobbits playing much of a role there. They're not concerned about that. They're more concerned about humans. So Melkor is taking these, what are referred to as the children of Iluvatar, and creating Melkor wants his own children. And so that's taking their twisting, perverting men-elves combination of the two to then serve him Melkor and to do his own will, right? To further his agenda. Whereas Aule, who's one of the Valar, the Valar that's kind of, he's a creator Valar in the sense that he's working with Earth. - He's like a kind of Vulcan character, isn't he, from that? - Yeah, yeah. - If I say that kind of thing. - Yeah, exactly. - Yeah. - Mm-hmm, yeah. And so what Ali does is, Ali loves creating so much, and he knows that there's this idea in this song, right, which happened before the working out of the physical creation. In that song, he remembers that there are these children of Iluvatar, and he's inspired by that, this idea that there are these little beings are going to be walking around and populating this world. He's so inspired that he wants to create some of his own. And so he fashions them. And what he thinks is probably the closest to that. He doesn't have a clear picture of what these children of Lugatar are going to look like. So he ends up making things that are a little stockier, a little more stout. The proportions are off compared to elves and men. So this is his attempt, you know, like when you have a, you know, a preschooler, a young, you know, who's who's trying to draw what they think people look like and the proportions are kind of... Oh, I think this is really unfair to dwarves here, because dwarves are perfectly adapted to being in caves, I think. I reckon he was onto a good thing. Oh, no, I think that's right. So in their own world, yeah. So it's just if my child's stick figures would come to life completely at home in the world of that drawing, right, and they would love it. And I'm not saying that dwarves are lesser or worse. They're little bit slower and as we're reminded they're better at sprinting short distances than in long runs. And so what Ali does, he creates these things, these creatures, and they kind of come to life but they're not, we don't know if we can quite call it life, they're just kind of almost automatons, they're kind of like moving around. And he's actually interrupted by Iluvatar, this This is one of the few times where you have a Louvatar actually entering into the story. And he kind of scolds Alay, says, like, you know, why are you making these? Like, oh, I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to be doing that. I was just so excited by that. Forgive me. And he's and so he says, like, you can I will. I will. I'll crush these. I will try them right now. Sorry, I didn't know that this was a problem. But Louvatar stays his hand and says, no, don't don't destroy them. These are valuable because they were your creation. you were creating them not to do your own will, but because you wanted to further the beauty in the world. And so don't touch them, I'm going to do something with them. And so he kind of puts them to sleep, lays them down. And then Iluvatar essentially breathed this real life into them. So they have free will and they're then kind of functioning within this world. And he keeps them instead of kind of changing them to meet the proportions of elves and humans. He keeps them in the same form that Owlay formed them, which was stockier, stouter. So he kind of, he essentially blesses Owlay's work where it wasn't perfect. Oh, okay, I see. I missed that step. Yeah, I missed that step. So he wasn't, so he isn't saying that like, okay, you, like, now I'm going to pat him on the head and then like changes the drawing and says, okay, this is what it's supposed to look like. He says like, no, what you did is great as it is. And it's going to play a different part, but it's going to be a part that weaves into the whole and strengthens and adds things that wouldn't be there if they were the same size proportions and had the same interests as elves and men. So this is one of these examples of Iluvatar taking something that's kind of unexpected that's outside of the plan. So this is that conductor or the person in the jazz band who finds something that's kind of wobbly or wonky and then kind of tries reaching out and bringing it in rather than just kind of segregating it or separating it from the song. It brings it in and incorporates it too. So this is really, yeah, so that the Owl-Ace creation of the dwarves is a really good idea of an illustration of what it means to be a creator and sort of attitude that Tolkien believes that creators should have. So Melkor is creating orcs, but he's creating them for the purpose of subjugation to further his own will, whereas Aule was doing it to beautify creation as a whole. Because that was the attitude or posture of that creator, then Iluvatar is able to work with that and bring that and elevate the work as a whole. Okay, so this is coming out of Tolkien's theology, really. But also, there's a parallel here between the long-running debates within literary criticism of the role of the author as regarding their texts. I want to hear to acknowledge and we'll put a link in the show notes to an excellent article by Benjamin Saxton which looks at this, lines it up with Roland Barthes and all that kind of stuff. So the context in which Tolkien is writing, he's probably aware and a bit sniffy about all this literary criticism that's going on and sweeping through the literature schools in Oxford and Cambridge and elsewhere, where there is this debate about meaning. Does anything have any meaning? Structuralism and post-structuralism, all that stuff. He is coming in with, I suppose, in a sense, going back to basics, what he thinks story does. he's fighting this rearguard action against these movements which are moving towards a sense of there being no meaning. The author is dead, the feel, which is very well explored in that article. So if you are studying literature or just interested in it, do read this article. So let's turn by the first of these rearguard actions in Mithipia. It's beautiful. I don't I don't know if you've got any of it to quote to us, Jacob. Yeah, yeah, I absolutely do. So again, this is interesting. And this was a particularly special place in my heart because I was able to sneak this into my qualifying exams for my doctoral qualifying exams. I was dealing with mythology, comparative myth, and religious ideas and movements. And so in talking about myth, I brought this particular poem in. And so what this is doing, again, it's in praise of myth. So for those people who might say that myth is-- so the preface to this poem is a line that comes from C.S. Lewis. as C.F. Lewis apparently said in this kind of long night walk, nighttime walk that Lewis had with Tolkien and Dyson. And there, you know, Lewis at this point is, you know, on his journey from, you know, was kind of Christian theist to then kind of agnostic atheist and then he kind of was shifting kind of back but like needs some sort of like resonance sort of convincing both like intellectually, but as well as, you know, kind of deeper kind of in the heart that, you know, what's the value of these different stories. So he's Lewis was very touched by the, you know, Norse, some of these Norse stories. The ring cycle was something was one that like particularly touched him, you know, Ragnarok and these different ideas. But he said, "But they're just lies." So this is the line that starts Mythopoeia is it's dedicated to the one, quote, "who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless even though breathed through silver." So those were apparently Lewis's words that they're breathed through silver. So these myths, they sound great and they have these great ideas and you might feel something, but essentially they're lies because Lewis is arguing that there wasn't Fafnir, there wasn't Thor and Odin and Hela and all these like, he's saying these aren't actual creatures. So they're lies, they're worthless. They sound great, but there's no worth to them. And so Tolkien writes this, it's from Philomythus to Mizomythus, which is from the lover of myths to the hater of myths, essentially, is these characters that he's creating. A very academic joke. Yes, some of the best jokes are right. So one of the things that he says here, he's combating these ideas that trees are just trees. It's a combination of cells, structures, that it sustains itself through soil, through a particular chemical composition, takes certain elements that are around it from water, that takes sunlight and transforms that chlorophyll, et cetera, et cetera. And so he's fighting against labeling things like you can dissect things and label them, and that is the thing. But in this poem, Tolkien says that the naming of things is part of the magic. This is something we'll circle back to on fairy stories, is the power of words and language in creating and creating a world and an experience rather than just a taxonomy of or an anatomy of something. And so this is what he's fighting is a cold view of reality that you can just label things. And things in that sense become tools for furthering human ambitions and human greed, human self-referential ends, rather than putting in the context of creation as a whole. And so back to what you were saying earlier about humanity as sub-creators, right? Tolkien can see the world as a creation that somebody else created. Then for Tolkien's mind, this is a creation that God made. And so while humans can't do the sort of thing that God does, which is create an entire physical planet populated by x, y, and z, humanity can take of the raw materials and elements and shape them into something unique. And so one of the phrases that I love here is, he says, man, subcreator, the reflected light through whom is splintered from a single white to many hues and endlessly combined in living shapes that move fine to mind. So this idea that each person is essentially kind of a prism, right? So everybody has the same kind of sorts of input, you know, creative input that's coming in, but each person is taking from the world around them and putting them into an endlessly, you know, kind of an infinite number of different possibilities, a certain combination of those possibilities that's only available from, say, my perspective and from your perspective. And each person has a particular sensitivity to the world around them. And so a kind of creation, a literary creation, is essentially filtering of something larger than yourself through your experience, your eyes and sensitivities into something that's unique and new and that never created, never existed before and could never exist throughout all eternity if it weren't for you, the creator. And this creation itself can then move and do something. Yeah, that's really true to my experience as an author. So I often do talks in schools and pretty much every time I get asked, "Why be an author? Why do you write?" kind of thing. That is one of the answers. The answer is, I've done other jobs in the workplace where when I leave, somebody takes my job on and they do it fine. You know, the places if I've never been. But nobody else can write the book I've written, the world I've created in that book. It's a unique thing. I'm sure it's exactly the same for someone who composes a piece of music or paints a picture, creates a garden. It doesn't have to be just art forms you buy in a shop. That's very profound. So that splinter idea, I love that quote as well. I was thinking about that a little bit more and how it chimes with what Tolkien goes on to write or is writing, probably at the same time, particularly in the Silmarillion part of the bit about the Silmarils, the jewels that are made by Fianor. That Elven smith, he's like the original craftsman of the elves who's living in the land of the Valar, the Undying Lands. He creates the Silmarils, capturing the light, a splinter of the light from, I think it's from the trees at this point, isn't it? Because there's a number of light sources in Middle Earth. Anyway, so he's creating these jewels and they become amazingly beautiful with the light inside. And then when Melkor and the Ungoliant, the spider, kill the trees. That light leaves the Earth and Melchor runs off with the jewels. This is really the major moment of disaster in the first age. What then happens is an interesting discussion. So, Yavana, who's one of the Valar, the one who sort of created the nature goddess, I suppose is the best way of thinking about her, who created the trees. She says, "Well, if we could have a bit of that light from the Silmarils, then maybe we can illuminate this again. We can recreate this." But Theanos decided it's his by now. No one's touching the Silmarils. They're mine. They're my family's. and this begins that almost Greek, well it is a kind of Greek tragedy of brothers against brothers and all this kind of thing. He's forgotten that he owes his creativity to something that isn't him. He has grown to be this monster ego and that's what's wrong with him. Is he no longer gives up his creation in thanks in the way that Aeoli with the dwarves did. here's what I've done. Oh, okay. You know, here it is for you. He's going more into the Melkor idea, which is mine. It's my precious familiar. So that splinter idea, I think, is the difference between healthy and unhealthy creativity. That I don't think talking how much time he was fairly, I suppose he could say he was obsessive about Middle Earth, but he was never... he was happy to share it with other people and talk about it with other people. He didn't sort of clutch it so close. He shared it, he read it, had it published. So he didn't fall off the wagon of healthy creativity, but he sees that potential, I think, in that splinter idea. So that's another area where we think about a creative mind has to be aware that it's only part of a process. And I don't think that's really reflective. So going on to the Lord of the Rings, which some of you may be more familiar with Lord of the Rings rather than the Silmarillion, you get that in the Ring. The Ring is a dark version of this. So it's been created and part of splinter or power from Sauron's been put in it. And then that is a kind of poisonous creativity because that then goes on to spread like a cancer through everybody it touches. So you've got these themes, it's going back to the music, it's a different version of the theme being played in a darker key. And that's what I love about how he thinks through this, because he keeps playing a different version of his theme and you always think, oh yeah, that that too is true about creativity. So have we got, I think, more to say about Mithupia other than and it was a fun thing to go away and read 'cause it's full of some wonderful images. And again, not too long a read. - Yeah, it is great. Yeah, I just want one last phrase that I love. I think it's encouraging for creators of all sorts. He says here that essentially, so like creation is done by people that have hearts essentially, right? That care about the world around them. No matter who you are, And I love the word that he uses here that gives me hope. So as I feel like I'm not measuring up to my own ideas of who I should be or who I want to be as an author, as a poet, as fill in the blank. He says here, "Blessed are the timid hearts, the evil hate that quail in its shadow and yet shut gate, that seek no parlay and in guarded room, though small and bare upon a clumsy loom, We've tissues gilded by the far off day, hope believed in under shadows sway. So this idea of-- I especially like the clumsy loom. These people that are just like-- they're reacting. They want to bring-- they recognize that the world around them can be bleak and dark. But he's saying, blessed are those people that even though they're scared and trembling and they don't have the best materials, yet they're trying to do something to bring something good into the world. no matter what it is, no matter how clumsy your loom or fingers, the fact that you are trying to do something, make it in whatever mode that's going to be, like you're mentioning gardening, but painting your house, whatever it is, you're beautifying, you're doing something good to share, to enrich the world around you. That's what's important in the creative process. And that's worthy in and of itself. Yeah. And so I just love that idea. It's inspiring for me. Yeah, so it means that everybody out there who's having a go at their poetry or their novel writing or whatever, that's good. That's valued. The fact that you're doing that, the fact you are a poet, you are a writer. If you're writing, if you're in the act of writing, you're a writer. If you're in the act of painting, whatever it is, you're a painter. It's that desire to do it and do it again, not for just yourself, for those greedy self-serving purposes. It's to enrich those around you, to enrich yourself but also to bring something into the world that didn't exist before. Doesn't mean you can't get better at it just as you do painting classes. You can come on one of our writing writing courses that we do here, a little outfit there. But it's still worthwhile even without any sort of extra sort of formal education about it. Thank you for listening to part one. Rejoin us next week to listen to the second part of our discussion. Thanks for listening to Myth Makers Podcast, brought to you by the Oxford Centre for Fantasy. Visit to join in the fun. Find out about our online courses, in-person stays in Oxford, plus visit our shop for great gifts. Tell a friend and subscribe, wherever you find your favourite podcasts worldwide.