Tolkien

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Mon Aug 23 19:46:35 EDT 2004


Melissa worried:

>I'm starting to feel like a whiny outcast Donaldson character.  Didn't
>ANYONE here love Tolkien, ever?  I swear I read that trilogy about fifty
>times when I was a kid (except the poetry and the Tom Bombadil part) and
>just felt so swept up in it.  (My friend swears we read it in second grade,
>which could be possible, but I can't believe I was quite *that* precocious.)

I never said I didn't love LotR -- surely saying that *when* I re-read it
these days I do it following one party at a time rather than taking it in
the sequence JRRT wrote it is a dead giveaway, I mean who constantly
re-reads books they hate?  I have bits of it I re-read less often than
others, though.  I can for instance go for months and even years at a time
without feeling any need to check up on how Tom Bombadil and Goldberry are
getting on -- but I do want to make sure the barrow-wights are as I left
them, so I don't avoid Tom B altogether, because he does the deus ex mach
bit there.

I have no idea when I read it first: I probably started about three days
after I finished *The Hobbit*, at a guess, and since both were in the house
from my earliest reading years, on account of my having a brother ten years
older than me for whom most of the good stuff had been bought most
conveniently ready for my use, it could be any time from when I was about
six.  I do know that I didn't understand it all, but I loved the way
Tolkien used words, and particularly the way the Riders of Rohan used
words, whatever I may think of some of that now.  I also remember not
thinking much of the poetry: if that was the best elves could manage when
they'd had centuries of life to learn how to do it....  I didn't really
take in that it was all supposed to be translated from the Elven and so it
wasn't really their fault but Bilbo's.  As it were.

Nowadays I find their eternal nostalgia for a Golden Age that never really
was (as far as I can tell from the Silmarillion) a bit trying, but back
then I just accepted them as Good Guys in White Hats (and probably lincoln
green tights like Robin Hood and His Merry Men) but with a distressing
habit of song.

>As an adult I have to be pretty amazed at what he accomplished, considering
>that everyone and his well-educated dog borrowed from him to create their
>knock-off fantasy universes.  It's been about three years since I read it
>last, and in my memory I had come to equate his world with all those others.
>But by comparison, his expression of the idyllic past and the idealization
>of the nonhuman races (and I include the evil races in this) is so totally
>fresh that I wonder how I missed it before.  This is true even if you don't
>like the original--you don't have to like Lord of the Rings to notice the
>differences.  Terry Brooks should have been shot out of hand.

Why waste a bullet?  Ropes are re-usable.

>I've been considering the interview's statement about Eddings, Feist and
>Goodkind being giants in the field, implying some sort of widespread
>influence when they really just make tons of money selling to the uneducated
>masses (how's that for a spasm of annoyed superiority?).  Tolkien had
>influence.  He made something that spawned a subgenre, one that can never
>quite escape its roots; much of that type of fantasy, whatever you choose to
>call it, really does depend on the reader being aware of conventions that
>ultimately get traced back to that one series.  Still, imagine if there had
>been no Tolkien.  The broad category of fantasy does not depend solely on
>one series, one source of ideas.  It's interesting to contemplate how things
>would be different for the genre today if the seminal work were based on
>folk magic rather than high myth.  Or on ideas of sympathetic magic.  Or
>some non-Occidental system of fantasy, even.  Imagine hack knockoffs of
>_Bridge of Birds_, and shudder.

oh dear.  Now you have been and gone and done it.  I shall have nightmares.
You are an *Evil* Jeenyus and Allways Right, Melissa Proffitt!

Minnow


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