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View Full Version : Narnia vs Lord of the Rings. Common elements.



Nateskate
06-06-2005, 04:22 PM
It's no secret that Tolkien and C.S. Lewis read their stories to each other. Have you noticed how many common elements there are in their stories.

I'll start the conversation, but hopefully you who've read both can add more.

1) Magic rings. In both cases, they not only make the user invisible, but take them to a different world. In Frodo's case, he was taken to the "wraith world", which is why the Ring-Wraiths could see him when he put on the rings.

In Narnia, they went to different worlds.

2) In the Silmarillion, music played a part in the creation of the world/universe. In Chronicles of Narnia, singing was the vehicle of the creation of Narnia.

Do you see any other similarities?

LloydBrown
06-06-2005, 04:43 PM
It's no secret that Tolkien and C.S. Lewis read their stories to each other. Have you noticed how many common elements there are in their stories.

Do you see any other similarities?

I haven't read CSL yet, but after seeing the trailer for Narnia, I assure you I will before the movies release.

Tolkien I know very well. LotR 19 reads. Silmarillion 8 times. Hobbit 7 times. I'll get back to you on this one.

Nateskate
06-06-2005, 07:37 PM
I haven't read CSL yet, but after seeing the trailer for Narnia, I assure you I will before the movies release.

Tolkien I know very well. LotR 19 reads. Silmarillion 8 times. Hobbit 7 times. I'll get back to you on this one.

I've read much of Tolkien, including Silmarillion, his biography, his letters, and some of Lost Tales, and other books. But I don't read and re-read.

Pat~
06-07-2005, 04:45 AM
I've read the Narnia series 7 or 8 times, and am a huge fan of them. (As a former teacher I used to read them to my kids.) I studied Moderm Mythology with Clyde Kilby when in college (a real CSL expert; he was responsible for getting alot of the Lewis collection to be housed at our school, including the wardrobe). Our reading list was so extensive that I remember reading the Tolkien series way too fast to get as much out of it as I could've...I'll have to reread the Tolkien books and get back to you. Interesting post!

MadScientistMatt
06-07-2005, 06:13 AM
More thoughts...

Both of them have one of their most powerful magic characters die, then return with more powers.

In both LOTR and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first magical character who wears white turns out to be evil. And both times one of the major characters gets in trouble for failing to realize this.

Both have countries that seem to be vaguely patterned after the Middle East and send armies that oppose the heroes. (In LOTR, they seem to be from a land to the south that the main characters never visit.)

The bad guys from both Calormene and Mordor practice slavery.

I'm sure there's more if you look hard enough...

Medievalist
06-07-2005, 07:41 AM
I've read the Narnia 7 or 8 times, and am a huge fan of them. (As a former teacher I used to read them to my kids.) I studied Moderm Mythology with Clyde Kilby when in college (a real CSL expert; he was responsible for getting alot of the Lewis collection to be housed at our school, including the wardrobe).

Kilby's no slouch as a Tolkien scholar, either. I believe he briefly worked for Tolkien, helping him with filing. In any case, he had a fairly extensive correspondence with Tolkien, based on citations I've seen in secondary Tolkien scholarship to letters that aren't in Carpenter's edition of Tolkien's letters.

Pat~
06-07-2005, 07:53 AM
Interesting details about his Tolkien affiliations, Medievalist! I never realized he'd actually worked for him.

Pat~
06-07-2005, 08:31 AM
Both deal with the theme of untamed, insatiable desire that has been tainted with evil--with Gollum's and Bilbo Baggins' attraction for the rings, and, in the Narnia tales, many instances: Eustace Scrubbs' desire for the dragon's treasures, the island where the knights had gone diving in the pool and turned into golden statues, the island with the singing sirens (Dawn Treader), Edmund's desire for the White Witch's Turkish Delight (L, W, & W), etc.

Nateskate
06-08-2005, 02:56 AM
More thoughts...

Both of them have one of their most powerful magic characters die, then return with more powers.

In both LOTR and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first magical character who wears white turns out to be evil. And both times one of the major characters gets in trouble for failing to realize this.

Both have countries that seem to be vaguely patterned after the Middle East and send armies that oppose the heroes. (In LOTR, they seem to be from a land to the south that the main characters never visit.)

The bad guys from both Calormene and Mordor practice slavery.

I'm sure there's more if you look hard enough...

Good job. I'm thinking of something in particular, I'm waiting to see if someone gets it. But you'd have to know the Silmarillion.

Nateskate
06-08-2005, 03:01 AM
Does anyone else notice that C.S Lewis writing style improved over the series? Although I think the opening was an interesting part of the story, I think he would have told it better later. But unlike Tolkien, C.S Lewis didn't get caught up in re-writes.

Of course, I'm of the opinion that alot of writers find their style as they go.

Pat~
06-08-2005, 04:10 AM
Good job. I'm thinking of something in particular, I'm waiting to see if someone gets it. But you'd have to know the Silmarillion.

The only thing that comes to mind right away is that the books weren't written/published in order (if you're including the Silmarillion with the JRT trilogy).The 'background history' books came later; (CSL's The Magician's Nephew, and Tolkien's the Silmarillion). But that's too easy...I'll have to go looking. Now you've got me curious.

Pat~
06-08-2005, 04:31 AM
A very special Tree (or 2, with Tolkien) factors into the beginning of the history of each...

MadScientistMatt
06-08-2005, 05:25 AM
Good job. I'm thinking of something in particular, I'm waiting to see if someone gets it. But you'd have to know the Silmarillion.

Both Narnia and Tolkien's worlds were created by music?

Medievalist
06-08-2005, 06:03 AM
Lewis "borrowed" bits of Tolkien's mythic prehistory from "Silmarillion" for both the Narnia books, and his "Space trilogy." Tolkien was less than pleased.

Pat~
06-08-2005, 06:34 AM
Except that Silmarillion was never published until after Tolkien's death, so it must have been from the sharing of ideas back and forth, Tolkien reading from his work on it, etc. The fact that Tolkien took about 60 yrs. to write it could call into question who actually had which idea first...

Medievalist
06-08-2005, 06:54 AM
1. Tolkien sent multiple versions in ms. to Lewis--we have letters about this.

2. In the "History of Middle Earth"--twelve volumes of various mss. edited by Christopher Tolkien we have dated versions that we can match to Inklings notes by Lewis' Brother Jack.

3. There are letters mentioning the use of Tolkien's names from both C. S. Lewis and Tolkien.

4. At least one of the names Lewis used, a version of Numenor, pre-dates Tolkien and Lewis' friendship.

clintl
06-08-2005, 06:56 AM
Except that Silmarillion was never published until after Tolkien's death, so it must have been from the sharing of ideas back and forth, Tolkien reading from his work on it, etc. The fact that Tolkien took about 60 yrs. to write it could call into question who actually had which idea first...

My impression has been that Tolkien pretty much had the mythology and backstory of Middle Earth developed before he wrote The Hobbit. They were in a writing group together, weren't they? So it is almost certain that Lewis read a significant amount of Tolkien's posthumously published back when Tolkien was actually writing it.

Pat~
06-08-2005, 07:16 AM
That's what I meant when I referred to their sharing ideas back and forth. But since Tolkien was forever rewriting/refining it, and since there was so much discussion between them all, it does make me wonder how they ever figured out whose idea was originally whose...

Medievalist
06-08-2005, 07:26 AM
That's what I meant when I referred to their sharing ideas back and forth. But since Tolkien was forever rewriting/refining it, and since there was so much discussion between them all, it does make me wonder how they ever figured out whose idea was originally whose...

The two actually are very different in approach and style--and then, there's the linguistic basis behind all of Tolkien's work--he really was more interested in the language, the myths were just an elaboration in order to get to the languages, for Tolkien.

And then both are very clear about where they "got" certain ideas in their letters and journals.

Pat~
06-08-2005, 07:34 AM
Yes, their style really is different...I wonder who (if anyone) 'inspired' Tolkien? I know Lewis was also inspired by George MacDonald.

And, to get us back on track--Medievalist, can you think of some specific commonalities in the stories and help us guess what Natesgate's referring to? My brain's getting tired.

Nateskate
06-14-2005, 04:54 PM
A very special Tree (or 2, with Tolkien) factors into the beginning of the history of each...

You're hot on the trail. Do you want to elaborate a little further on

1) The purpose of the trees (2 trees in Tolkien) and the tree in "L,W,W"

2) The dangers of wrongful possession of the fruit of the trees. How was it wrong?

Tolkien elaborates a bit on the trees. They are extremely metaphorical.

What was Feanor's transgression that led to the days of sorrow for the Eldar? The metaphorical answer. Obviously, he took light from the two trees in the garden, and made the Silmarills, which were gems carrying the light. What was so bad about that, and the fact he refused to give it back to save the trees?

In fact, in C.S.Lewis, he also brings in some of Tolkien's views on human obsession with immortality (stretching this life) through Aslan, in that wrongly eating of the fruit of the tree would have prolonged days, but it would have multiplied sorrows to cause grief of life.

Nateskate
06-14-2005, 05:19 PM
Lewis "borrowed" bits of Tolkien's mythic prehistory from "Silmarillion" for both the Narnia books, and his "Space trilogy." Tolkien was less than pleased.

Yeah, there is no doubt that some of Tolkien's thinking drifted into C.S. Lewis stories. However, in all fairness, Tolkien more than acknowledges that without C.S.Lewis, his LOTR would never have gotten published. He had to sit through alot of revisions of the story, which is a really loyal thing to do.

But you also have to add the "common" factor, in that both are drawing from the same sources, which accounted for their friendship in the first place.

I love Mythology and Fairy Tales more than pure fantasy. I consider them roots, more than offshoots. I'm also well read in the Old Testament, and have a general understanding of the history of religion.

If in theory, you put me in a room with C.S.Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien, at the end of the day, we would be talking about much the same thing. For instance, if we talked about the Garden of Eden, and the lessons of the book, we'd likely have picked it apart, "What was the nature of sin?" "Why is eating an apple a problem?"- Oh it wasn't eating an apple, it was an attempt to acquire a nature?"

"Why wouldn't God have made a separate tree of good, and a separate tree of evil?" Why wouldn't God want us to be "like god" or "like God?" Trick question. Why would Eve who was created in the image and LIKENESS of God, "like God", be tricked into buying her own car, and eat fruit to try to be "like God"

There are so many profound questions, and those lead to ideas, and sometimes assumptions. One assumption I have is that "good and evil" can both be evil, in a contextual way. In other words, it would make perfect sense that a good God, wouldn't want to withhold "good" from anyone. So why are they in the same tree? Rather, how contextually, is "good" itself evil, and what was the "good" in the knowledge of the tree? Well, we sort of know the answer, in the sense that we have a concept of "good", but how many times through trying to do good, have we "estranged loved ones", become "judgmental and vendictive." In other words, our attempts at goodness can be just as faulty or even more harmful than our attempts to drown away our sorrows in the dregs of pleasures.

And so, now you have the basis for another mythology, or another fantasy, because Man's attempts at being good have caused more pain and suffering than mankind's attempts at "obvious vice".

Every mad scientist is trying to improve the world "The world of his imagination". Most wars have a "good" objective, as weighed by those who wage wars. And we haven't even touched on the evils done in the name of religion.

So, there is a giant question. "What is wrong with our concepts of "good?"

You'd imagine if (time machines allowed) we could get together and bang heads, you would eventually have similar life lessons imbedded in all our stories. Would we be stealing from each other, or stealing from the origional sources? I don't particularly consider that stealing though. Rather, those books "moral of the story" were written to be heard. And even afterwards, they were re-interpreted.

The story of Numenor was an Atlantis clone, which Tolkien didn't steal, but borrowed from. It was a part of his dream from childhood of a giant wave. However, when he writes the story, he also borrows from Noah's Ark, from the Tower of Bable, from Sodom and Gomorrah. He brings them all together in his story. Plus he puts Norse, Greek mythological elements into it. In fact, some of his stories are straight out of mythology (In the Silmarillion)

I love this sort of thinking. In book one of my story, the son of a protagonist winds up a villian, not because of malice, but because of fear and insecurity, and stubbornly following a path where he thinks he knows better. It's amazing that many of mankind's worst violations "against humanity" were attempts by people to improve humanity.

Yet, few see harboring prolonged "fear" or "insecurity" as evil. But "Kill them before they kill us," is born of insecurity. They might not have wanted to kill us. Maybe they were like us, afraid we'd kill them. And so you have two peoples who don't want to kill anyone, killing, because they fear being killed. (Desire for safety in the imagination is where the war started) And it virtually becomes the Mantra of this character in my story.

He locks his own beautiful daughter in a dungeon, "For her own good," which triggers more pathos.

Yeshanu
06-14-2005, 10:32 PM
Nateskate,

I'm not going to spoil your game, but the others might think of what other commonly told story features a tree, and where these two writers might have learned about this myth.

There's a dissimalarity in style though -- C.S. Lewis' books were allegorical, and based on the book containing the above story, while Tolkien heartily despised allegory.

Pat~
06-15-2005, 12:41 AM
(QUOTE: Natesgate)
Why wouldn't God have made a separate tree of good, and a separate tree of evil?" Why wouldn't God want us to be "like god" or "like God?" Trick question. Why would Eve who was created in the image and LIKENESS of God, "like God", be tricked into buying her own car, and eat fruit to try to be "like God"?
So many questions! I'll try a few answers, but asking "why" about God is often speculative, unless we can find the answer in what we know about His nature. First question: I have no idea! Second question: He did create us to be "like God"...we were made in His image, right down to the idea of having a free will. But we would always be lower than God since we were the "created" and He was the Creator. Trick question: Eve could be tricked because she had a free will and was created with the capacity for desire. God created her this way because those two things make up the essence of worship--freely desiring and loving passionately. She was tricked because she was deceived by the one who could tap into that desire and warp it by infecting it with pride...so that her chief desire was no longer for God and His glory, but for her own.


So, there is a giant question. "What is wrong with our concepts of "good?"

Again, I'm no expert, but when God created, He looked and declared that it was all "good". I think one thing that is wrong with our concept of good is that we ascribe 'good' or 'bad' to outward created things, when actually good and bad are not in the nature of the things themselves, but in the heart of man--which either loves them appropriately or inordinately. Gets back to desire (the force that rules the universe!) Eg. "alcohol"--in itself is a morally neutral substance. It's man's choice of the inordinate desire of it that leads to evil.




Yet, few see harboring prolonged "fear" or "insecurity" as evil. But "Kill them before they kill us," is born of insecurity. They might not have wanted to kill us. Maybe they were like us, afraid we'd kill them. And so you have two peoples who don't want to kill anyone, killing, because they fear being killed. (Desire for safety in the imagination is where the war started) And it virtually becomes the Mantra of this character in my story.



Fear, in and of itself is also morally neutral--can actually be a very good, life-preserving thing. It can also lead to evil, however, when the human chooses to trust his own sense of control to safeguard himself from that fear instead of trusting God. Gets back to inordinate desire again. Sin, or evil, begins where desire for God becomes overshadowed by personal desire for one's own will and way of doing things. Desire for God's will which is His glory must be paramount. That's why Jesus said, unless you 'hate' eveything/everyone else by comparison, you could never be His disciple. Perfect love casts out fear. Perfectly loving God's will (and knowing He loves me like noone else) erases fear from my life. The 'safest' place is always right in the center of His will.

(Gee, this is starting to sound like my book...!)

Nateskate
07-15-2005, 02:25 AM
(QUOTE: Natesgate)
She was tricked because she was deceived by the one who could tap into that desire and warp it by infecting it with pride...so that her chief desire was no longer for God and His glory, but for her own.


So, there is a giant question. "What is wrong with our concepts of "good?"



The Lord of the Rings was not about coveting power according to Tolkien. It was about man striving for immortality. Elves are an offshoot of mankind, or the first branch of mankind. Perhaps somewhat like Pre-deluvian man.

The Elves, according to Tolkien, were tempted by the rings because with them they could preserve the world as they knew it. But Tolkien implies this would not have preserved the world but Embalmed it like an unchanging corpse. The Elves grew weary of Middle Earth. They feared change, and were therefore drawn to the undying lands where things stayed the same.

The temptation from the human perspective (Mankind), which is really most evident with Sauron leading Numenor into Morgoth worship, (in the Silmarillion) was the temptation to prolong life. They coveted the Valar's immortality, and tried to steal it.

Tolkien is clear that this obsession to prolong life (this fallen body in a fallen world) did not lead to more joy or happiness, but a stretching process, where life gets longer, but not leading to happiness. So, in effect the Numenorians turned to the dark arts, and to Morgoth worship out of fear of mortality. And so Bilbo's line, "I feel like too little butter spread over too much bread." Everyone who wore the ring were "stretched". They lived longer, but their lives were not happy.

(Spoilers)

In the Magician's Nephew (Name?) the uncle is obsessed with his own little tower of Babel- magic rings. He is motivated by pondering his own mortality, and is hoping that in using his nephew as a lab rat, he will find a magic world that preserves his life, and this is his undoing. So Tolkien and Lewis both use "fear" as the core of the fall. But "fear" was not only the uncles motivation, it was the witches as well.

The witch was so afraid of losing control, she embalmed her entire world, and made everyone into statues. In fact she even embalms herself.

This may seem distant and remote, but it is the same core element of Tolkien's story. Feanor was the creator of the Silmarils which are Jewels. But he only made the "casings". The light came from two trees. The Silmarils, according to Tolkien represented a divine light. He later referred to the sun and moon as the lesser lights of a fallen world.

Why was Feanor insecure? His parents were really screwed up people, especially for Elves. His mother stopped wanting to live after he was born, and willed herself to die. His father went into a dark funk, and this is what led Feanor into his folly. Although his dad spoiled him, according to the story, he never felt his father was satisfied or content with him. And so when Feanor was a certain age, his father remarried (uncommon with elves-like Arwyn, one partner for life), and he hated his father's new family.

The light of the Silmarils were never meant to be owned. The light was meant for everyone to enjoy. (Just like in the tree that Aslan wanted to preserve The temptation offered to ??? was that he could take the fruit for himself. (Robbing Narnia of the tree that wold come from it).

Later, when Morgoth and Ungoliant attacked the trees, they could have been revived if Feanor would have given up the Silmarils. In other words, he possessed the ability to let go, and therefore bless the inhabitants of the earth, or to own these gems to the detriment of all. He chose to hold onto the Silmarils, and later Varda cursed them.

Oh, and another commonality- in both stories, the Trees were awakened, and then went back to sleep. And they were angry.

Ralph Rinklemann
07-30-2006, 08:34 AM
There's a dissimalarity in style though -- C.S. Lewis' books were allegorical, and based on the book containing the above story, while Tolkien heartily despised allegory.

Actually, neither cared for allegory very much. Lewis denied that the Narnia stories were allegorical on several occasions. There's no doubt some metaphor and symbolism were used that represent certain people and things in the bible but not really very much. Aside from the obvious symbol of the Lion of Judah (Christ) and Aslan, along with the death of an innocent (Aslan) and resurrection of the same later, there's just not much that's even symbolic or metaphorical let alone an allegory. I read one reviewer who once tried to connect Judas with Edmund as both betraying Jesus/Aslan, but it simply doesn't wash. First, Edmond didn't betray Aslan. If he betrayed anybody it was his brothers and sisters, but he didn't betray them either, or at least not on purpose. He never did try to bring them to the White Witch's palace. He went there on his own with no idea he would be followed by them. He simply wanted more candy. There was no betrayal. People really grasp at straws to find this allegorical stuff. It seems to me that simply because Lewis said emphatically that there was nothing allegorical about the stories that this has made people do their darndest to find something allegorical about them.

Yes, their style really is different...I wonder who (if anyone) 'inspired' Tolkien? I know Lewis was also inspired by George MacDonald.

They were both very inspired by MacDonald early on. As you probably know, Tolkien was very jealous of Lewis' friendship with Charles Williams. Couple this with the fact that nearly everybody in The Inklings hated Tolkien's stories, ("Not another f***ing elf", as Dyson once said at a Tolkien reading), and how Lewis looked down on Catholicism and its easy to see where Tolkien got a little bitter and stopped the friendship. Later on it got so bad that Tolkien seemed to purposely (at least to my mind) reject anything Lewis liked. He could say nothing good about Joy. And eventually he decided he didn't like MacDonald anymore... just about the time Lewis wrote, George MacDonald: An Anthology.

For people who are science and metaphysical minded, you should take a look at a book that effected both Tolkien and Lewis very much by John Dunne called, An Experiment With Time. Lewis quoted from it in at least 4 or 5 books I can think of. Tolkien wrote several unfinished stories that couldn't have existed without Dunne's experiments with dreams, future events, and serial time. The Silmarillion (Tolkien's only good book in my opinion) also owed a great deal to Dunne's work at Oxford.

Medievalist
07-30-2006, 09:33 AM
The best study, hands down, on Tolkien's use of time, and Dunne's book, is Verlyn Flieger's book A Question of Time: J.R.R. Tolkien's Road to Faerie. Flieger, in my opinion, is one of the few top notch Tolkien scholars, in the select company of Shippey, Anderson, and Drout, and a handful of others.

Ralph Rinklemann
07-30-2006, 10:36 AM
Yeah, Flieger seems a little too eager to try and tie Tolkien to occult themes I think, but otherwise its a pretty good study.

And by the way, I should probably point out that even though Tolkien's work was disliked at Inklings meetings, I don't recall Lewis himself ever speaking out against it. I've always had a hard time warming up to them but I think Lewis genuinely enjoyed some of Tolkien's stories myself.

Medievalist
07-30-2006, 06:45 PM
Yeah, Flieger seems a little too eager to try and tie Tolkien to occult themes I think, but otherwise its a pretty good study.

I'm not sure what you mean by "occult"--do you mean the use of fairy/otherworld motifs?


And by the way, I should probably point out that even though Tolkien's work was disliked at Inklings meetings, I don't recall Lewis himself ever speaking out against it. I've always had a hard time warming up to them but I think Lewis genuinely enjoyed some of Tolkien's stories myself.

Lewis did enjoy Tolkien's work; Tolkien enjoyed Lewis' less, and found some of the later work insulting and personally distressing.

Ralph Rinklemann
07-31-2006, 04:32 AM
Oh I think she implied it here and there. She said speaking of LOR, "Hence they fell in a measure to Sauron’s deceits: they desired some “power" over things as they are (which is quite distinct from art), to make their particular will to preservation effective: to arrest change, and keep things always fresh and fair." She had just a few sentences earlier referred to this as, "the Elvish weakness", which of course it was. However, she then goes on to say that, "The fact is that like his Elves, Tolkien hoarded memory, He, too regretted the past; he, too, was unwilling to face change and wanted to arrest history, to keep hold of the past in the present." She also spoke of Frodo's "wanderlust" and desire to penetrate the other worlds of time and again relates this to Tolkien's own desires. To her credit, she does come back later and admit that Tolkien was probably relaying a message about how its not safe to have thoughts like these—to live in the past or wish to, or to keep the present always with us. However, I thought the damage was already done. And when she wrote about the "Notion Club", does it not seem to you that she argues that these people represent, The Inklings, and that they have an interest in occult matters?

But I really don't want to make a big deal of it. It’s a small caveat in an otherwise well-done book.

And to clarify my own position on the term "occult", by it I mean nothing evil in itself. There's nothing inherently evil about things that are hidden. It’s the "desire" to know about them, and more importantly, the ambition to gain knowledge in order to control one's place in the world which is where evil creeps in. That's the difference between a mere seeker of occult knowledge and a Mystic. The former (which I generally think of as sorcerers, witches and the like) is on a quest for power toward selfish ends. The latter merely seeks the face of God. But as the bible verse says: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these other things will be added to you". I just want it to be clear that I have nothing but affection for the true Mystic. But for those simply masquerading as mystics (the Crowleys and Yeats and worse) I have little use. They may refer to themselves as "mystics" but there's nothing Mystical about them. "Mystical" should be about direct contact with the divine. Anybody can have a dream. Not just anyone has one from God. Anybody can have an out-of-body-experience. Not everyone who has one talks with angels. I hate the way modern authors throw the term—mystical—around as if any kind of otherworldly experience qualifies.

PS, have you read Dunne's "The Serial Universe", and if so, what did you think of it. I thought his sleep/dream experiments in the earlier book were excellent and proved that dreams do indeed sometimes foretell the future for some people. I thought however, that his arguments in favor of serial time being the reason behind that phenomenon were rather poor. His diagrams have never made much sense to me for one thing. I don't think they did to anybody. I was wondering if the later book explained things any better?

dclary
07-31-2006, 04:42 AM
I'd like to point out that magic rings and music are ubiquitous throughout ALL fantasy, and not just Tolkien or Lewis.