[LMB] Children, education, literacy

Damien Sullivan phoenix at mindstalk.net
Sun Jan 27 23:08:51 GMT 2019

On Sat, Jan 26, 2019 at 01:59:03PM +0000, John Lennard wrote:

> Going back to Pippin for a moment, my point was only that, in some measure,
> hobbits in general and Pippin in particular occupy the space in LR that
> might otherwise hold more self-evident children.

On the Tolkien children front:

We see children in the Shire, where we would most expect to see them.

In Bree we see a pub.

Rivendell is a High Elven enclave, and the Noldor are in decline.  Given
elven lifespan there would probably be a small proportion of children
even at the best of times, which it isn't.  Also, a *small* enclave.

Next is Lorien, a Wood Elf enclave.  Similar issues, but bigger, and
children could have been mentioned in Caras Galadon.

Rohan: we don't *see* children, though they may get mentioned (as in
"shelter the women and").  Not sure how many people live in
Edoras/Meduseld and the Rohirrim were in turmoil.

Minas Tirith was explicitly evacuated of most non-combatants.

And in between are big empty spaces because Tolkien's world is
massively depopulated, at least in the West.

> But the Hod/Hawthorn comparison is an interesting one. Mass education, and
> expectations of it, are of course pretty recent developments. It's only
> during the C19 in the UK that the government legislates children off the

The recent bit is the national scale, not the idea of it.  The idea goes
back to Sparta, skips over to the Aztecs, then becomes fairly common
among some Protestants.

"In 1559, the German Duchy Württemberg established a compulsory
education system for boys.[11] In 1592, the German Duchy
Palatinate-Zweibrücken became the first territory in the world with
compulsory education for girls and boys" [apart from the Aztecs]


In the future UK you had parish schools in Scotland from 1616.  The
English who ran off to New England mandated education by parents from
1620, and schools in 1647.  (Though it later says the whole state didn't
get a law until 1852.)  Prussia jumped in in 1763, and was imitated
by other countries.

"The United Kingdom was slow to introduce compulsory education due to
the upper class defending its educational privileges... France was
equally slow to introduce compulsory education, this time due to
conflicts between the secular state and the Catholic Church"

> The big question is literacy. Every time the historians revise their
> estimates, it seems that more people were more literate earlier, but (a)
> literacy falls as well as rises, and (b) it didn't make a big enough

There are also levels of literacy.  Being able to read Roman urban
graffiti is different from being able to write a book.  Plus, we're
spoiled by modern pens and pencils; earlier writing seems like a whole
physical skill of its own, with the inks and feathers and such.  Brushes
might be easier but then you have Chinese characters... the easiest
combination might have been a Heian woman using a brush to write in
the hiragana syllabary: easy physical act of writing and easy system to

-xx- Damien X-) 

More information about the Lois-Bujold mailing list