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The J.R.R Tolkien Discussion Thread

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#1 Stefancos

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 04:41 PM

Yes they are (at least) 2 LOTR threads, but they are mostly concerned with the movies and the music. I would like this one to concentrate more on the actual books of Tolkien.

A few weeks ago I started reading The Lord Of The Rings again. It's been maybe 3 years since I have read any of Tolkiens work.
I'm once again complete engulfed in this world he has created.

I think the appeal of this book was summoned up best of all by the film critic Roger Ebert.

Reading it, I remembered why I liked it in the first place. It was reassuring. You could tell by holding the book in your hands that there were many pages to go, many sights to see, many adventures to share. I cherished the way it paused for songs and poems.

Right now I'm starting book four, so much has happened already, but there is still so much to read. Always I feel sad when I get to the last book, not really wanting it to end.

It is still a marvel to me that this book got published the way it did. These days a publisher would consider it interesting, but far too long, fat too repetitive and would request many changes to make it more suitable for publication (remember, Tolkien was by no means a famous author who had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted. The Hobbit was a very successful book, but aimed at a young audience and by the time of LOTR's publication it was 17 years old.

What is it that attracts you most about The Lord Of The Rings? (or Tolkien's other writings)

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#2 MissPadmé

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 04:59 PM

What I find so great about The Lord of the Rings, is Middle-Earth.

It is described with such great detail, you really believe you are are wandering through the woods, climbing snowy/stormy mountains, luriking through the darkness of Moria (my favourite).. you name it.

It is this reimagined picture of our own world/reality, that I find so enchanting and very attractive.

I can perfectly see why so many people want to escape to middle-earth.. it is very appealing, allthough very dangerous.
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#3 Stefancos

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 05:04 PM

That picture is used for the cover of my book (the 1995 Harper Collins paperback). It's beautiful.

I agree about Middle Earth. You can see that Tolkien was always more interested in his fantasy world then he was with it's characters. He observes them as parts of the bigger whole, rather then individuals.

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#4 Faleel

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 05:47 PM

I have heard alot of it had to do with the fact that his homeland didnt have many legends of its own, so he invented his own

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The additional passage was interesting but not really something I would consider absolutely essential.


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#5 Marian Schedenig

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 06:13 PM

The Lord of the Rings has now been my favourite book(s) for over 15 years, and will probably remain that for the rest of my life. I first read it when I was about 14 years old, in German, and subsequently read it a total of about 6 or 7 times in German until I first read the original English version when I was about 19 or 20 - at that time, I knew the book so well that I knew the end of many sentences (in German) while reading the beginning (in English). I've since read it once more in English, partly before the release of Jackson's FOTR, and partly between that and the TTT release. I've been meaning to re-read it again for a while, and have bought the nice black paperback versions and Fonstad's Middle-earth atlas in preparation, but a stack of new books for Christmas is delaying me. Sometime this year, before the Blu releases of the PJ EEs come out.

Unlike many others, I didn't devour the books. My first read in particulary was very tedious. The preface took me an eternity (and I barely understood anything) and the Rohan chapters dragged a lot. Still, I wouldn't change a single word. It's a cumbersome book, not at all perfect in any literary way, but I feel that it's pretty much exactly the way it has to be to make the impact it does make.

I know three quotes that sum up my feelings about the book pretty well. The first is easy:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.


That poem perfectly describes the atmosphere of the main storyline: Essentially an adventure story, but one that derives its distinctly melancholic impact from the personal emotions of the characters and the overall sense of scope rather than individual encounters along the way. I can hear the poem in my head and be immediately emotionally transported to Middle-earth. To me, the overall feel of that poem and the overall feel of the book are very similar.

The second quote is also Tolkien's:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.


The first part of course lays out some of the core themes of all of Tolkien's stories. The second half is specific to the LOTR storyline. The wording and atmosphere evoked ARE Middle-earth, in a way.

The third one is something I remember reading as a quote from some celebrity, possibly Christopher Lee, who is known (or at least at one point was known) for reading the book once every year. It goes something like this (from memory, and also translated back to English, since what I read was a German translation):

The Lord of the Rings is not a book, it is an emotional state.


Which quite fits together with my above comments. There is something about LOTR, and to a lesser extent The Hobbit, that evokes a totally unique atmosphere for me. It's a completely immersive world, and yet not in the superficially escapists way that many critics regularly ascribe to fantasy and Tolkien specifically. After all, Tolkien's writings were in no small part his own way of dealing with the horrors of war and other issues like industrialisation and environmentalism, and while the world he tells his story in is a completely fictional one, the themes are in no way insignificant.

There's much more to Middle-earth than just those two most famous stories, of course. The rest mostly lacks the personal approach through functional (yet clearly identifiable) characters of LOTR and The Hobbit, but is in no way less interesting. The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales are clearly the heart of Tolkien's vision and contain many of the most memorable bits of Middle-earth mythology.

In my opinion, the common theme through ALL of these stories is an examination of transience and how to deal with it. The Elves are a perfect example, an immortal people who try to conserve everything the way it was, to make time stand still, but of course ultimately fail and leave behind their failed attempts in Middle-earth. The contrast between Elves and Men, and especially the stories of Beren and Luthien as well as Aragorn and Arwen highlight that even more, which is why I'm convinced that though she's rarely mentioned in the actual novel's text, the first appendix is proof that Arwen is a central character of LOTR. While not all of her scenes in the PJ movies work, and a few deviate from the "real" story too much, I applaud the three writers for noting the appendix and making her an integral part of the films.

I could probably go on forever, but this should suffice for now. I'll surely throw in more comments later.

#6 Red

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 06:29 PM

I love the world Tolkien crafted, he was an incredible historian of a complete, fictional world. But I have trouble actually reading LOTR, I find the man's wordiness difficult to get through, his prose hard to contextualize. There are times where it reads more like a history text book than a adventure story, which in itself has its benefits but for me it doesn't make for the easiest read.
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#7 Chaac

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 07:03 PM

I devoured the books before I was 13 and I was delighted.

I never read them again. Except for The Hobbit. I read most of it last year, this time in English.

#8 Stefancos

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 07:08 PM

I agree with both Marian and Rabbit that LOTR is not easy reading.

The first time I read it I got bogged down in the Old Forest/Tom Bombadil and actually contemplated putting the book down. It's prose, it's at times attention to detail regarding things that have nothing to do with the plot or the characters has certainly turned people away from it.

It's a book you have to take an effort to read. Tolkien does not always make it easy for you.

Unlike Marian I only ever read the English version. I've browsed the Dutch translation (from the 50's) and found the experience painful. The Hobbits "rural English" had been translated into a very childlike way of speaking that really put me of.

The Silmarillion is in many ways a very more daunting read then LOTR though, despite being far shorter.

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#9 ST-321

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 10:29 PM

The Silmarillion is in many ways a very more daunting read then LOTR though, despite being far shorter.


Yes, but it too is wonderful in its own way.

I read all of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings aloud to my daughter when she was young. That was daunting. There is so much in these books that is wonderful. I have read each of them several times and will do so again. I am almost sorry that we now have the movies (although I love the score) as it crowds my impression of things when re-reading.
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#10 John Crichton

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 10:47 PM

I find The Silmarillion just as satisfying as LotR. It is daunting the first time through, though.
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#11 Uni

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 10:56 PM

"J.J.R." Tolkien? Whom his friends affectionately called "Jay-Jay?" ;)

I've read the books beginning-to-end a total of fourteen times now. They're as much a part of me as any other cinematic, literary, or cultural icon could be. I don't find that it takes a great deal of effort to read the books--though I will say that the more effort you put into them, the more you'll get out of the experience. There are so many details, so wonderfully realized, that it seems impossible to catch them all in a single read-through . . . which is why, even after fourteen passes, I still find the story littered with elements I've never seen before. That's what makes so emminently re-readable. Its familiarity is its greatest charm. Peter S. Beagle put it best in his superlative essay "Tolkien's Magic Ring," when he said that knowing full well he hadn't written the book, there were times he felt that he had.

I've also threaded my way through the story innumerable times without actually "reading" it. In the late nineties, I got to experience the book in a way I never had before: by "scoring" it. I meticulously matched music from more than 40 films to every scene, character, event, and underlying theme in the epic, and wrote an 80-page book of liner notes to go with it. It was a mammoth undertaking, and the process of assembling it turned out to be one of the great joys of my life. It's purely for personal enjoyment (since it violates more copyright laws than I can count), and it's given me no end of that.


I have heard alot of it had to do with the fact that his homeland didnt have many legends of its own, so he invented his own

This is true. Tolkien's fascination with both classic mythologies and foreign languages are the foundation of everything that is Middle Earth. He started creating languages of his own when he was only a young man (based on his particular love of the ancient Celtic, Finnish, and Old English tongues). Knowing that philology isn't a product of intellectual creation but rather cultural evolution, he wanted to create a world that would explain the devolopment of his creative languages. At the age of 19, Tolkien was almost miraculously spared the fate of most of his generation at the Battle of the Somme in WWI when he came down with a case of trench fever. Confined to bed in a military hospital in France, he started writing "The Book of Lost Tales" in a composition notebook. 54 years later, at the time of his death, The Silmarillion still wasn't complete. It had to be published posthumously by his son, Christopher.

Tolkien's dream was to create a mythology for Britain, his homeland. It includes a reference to the legend of Atlantis (the oceanic rift into which the island of Numenor sank at the end of the Second Age is known as "Atalante"--which could be where we get the current name of the ocean. . . .) and several other little wink 'n' nudge hints that Tolkien's world is an earlier version of our own. If you look at the map of the western coast of Middle Earth at the end of the Third Age, it looks very similar to the coast of Europe. It would resemble it even more if you were to break off the region in the north where the Shire is located, and let it float westward a bit, resulting in a couple of islands right about where the UK is. . . .

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#12 Marian Schedenig

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 11:21 PM

The first time I read it I got bogged down in the Old Forest/Tom Bombadil and actually contemplated putting the book down. It's prose, it's at times attention to detail regarding things that have nothing to do with the plot or the characters has certainly turned people away from it.


Yes, that chapter was also a tough one when I first read it. The funny thing is, people complain about LOTR having entire paragraphs of nothing but landscape descriptions. I'm currently reading (actually, I put it on hold, but I'm in the middle of it) Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame, and guess what: It has entire CHAPTERS describing nothing but the map of Paris, or the cathedral.

Unlike Marian I only ever read the English version. I've browsed the Dutch translation (from the 50's) and found the experience painful. The Hobbits "rural English" had been translated into a very childlike way of speaking that really put me of.


There are two German translations. The one I read was the classic first translation "signed off" by Tolkien himself, and as far as I remember, it was very good (which means it did a decent job of turning an essentially untranslatable book into another language). After I read it, a new much maligned translation came out, and what little I've seen of it was indeed horrible.

#13 Uni

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Posted 27 February 2011 - 03:56 AM

There was another reason Tolkien wrote Rings, something I forgot to mention earlier. He tended to be drawn more than anything else to the pure historical data of his growing subcreation, and less on the characters within it (who tended to serve more as props to help establish the context of the locales through the passing centuries). His close friend C.S. Lewis, on the other hand, was far more enamored with storytelling than with stark chronological figures. Tolkien was reading genealogies and appendices to Lewis long before he started writing anything like a story. Lewis wasn't satisfied with this, so he encouraged (probably more like pestered) Tolkien to expand his statistics into a more tangible narrative account. Their mutual friend Walter Hooper later told the story of how Tolkien related his frustrations with Lewis (whom they called "Jack"): " 'You know Jack,' he said to me. 'He had to have a story! And that story--The Lord of the Rings--was written to keep him quiet!' "

So it seems we owe the chronicles of not one but two fantasy worlds to C.S. Lewis. . . .

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#14 Joe Brausam

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Posted 27 February 2011 - 06:11 AM


The first time I read it I got bogged down in the Old Forest/Tom Bombadil and actually contemplated putting the book down. It's prose, it's at times attention to detail regarding things that have nothing to do with the plot or the characters has certainly turned people away from it.


Yes, that chapter was also a tough one when I first read it. The funny thing is, people complain about LOTR having entire paragraphs of nothing but landscape descriptions. I'm currently reading (actually, I put it on hold, but I'm in the middle of it) Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame, and guess what: It has entire CHAPTERS describing nothing but the map of Paris, or the cathedral.


Try reading Ben-Hur, that's a nightmare.

#15 Red

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Posted 27 February 2011 - 06:24 AM

I actually think Lewis was overall a better writer than Tolkien, but Tolkien clearly bested him when it came to creating a setting. There are few who you could even compare to Tolkien in that regard. You're talking about a guy who spent the majority of his life meticulously crafting a single story, to a compulsive level.
Do you like John Williams? His early work was a little too jazzy for my taste, but when Jaws came out in '75 I really think he came into his own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and an air of consummate professionalism that really gives the pieces a big boost. He's been compared to Jerry Goldsmith but I think John has a far more leitmotif-driven style of composing. In '82 John composed this, E.T., his most accomplished album to date. I think his undisputed masterpiece is "The Magic of Halloween", a theme so catchy most people don't listen to what it means. But they should, because it's not just about the pleasures of childhood and the importance of friendship, it's also a personal statement about the man himself. Hey Paul!
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#16 Quintus

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Posted 27 February 2011 - 10:02 AM

There was another reason Tolkien wrote Rings, something I forgot to mention earlier. He tended to be drawn more than anything else to the pure historical data of his growing subcreation, and less on the characters within it

It also been documented that the book was an outlet for another great passion of his: language. He revelled in the invention of new tongues and dialects, with Elvish soon becoming something of a pet project for him.

As for the reading of what is my favourite book (I have though only read it once in its entirety); I struggled with its 'imperfections' as did many others. The Tom Bombadil and Tree Beard chapters nearly beat me down, but I ploughed through and was always rewarded with moments of profound wonder and emotion. Of the chapters I like to re-read, 'Strider' is possibly my favourite of them all: the atmosphere of the Inn of the Prancing Pony almost radiates from the page, it's so brilliantly described and suspensfully designed - I remember being gutted when PJ pretty much erased the character of Barliman; he was a great welcome stop sort of character, he and Nob made me feel safe again, at least for a while.

The Council of Elrond is another whopper of a chapter and it's absolutely brilliant. I love the genuinely scary witness testimonies from the dwarves and such, the tension in the air is both tangible and increasingly pretty damn terrifying. Amazing when one realises the reader is supposed to be in one of Tolkien's carefully placed 'safe-zones'.

Speaking of terror, fans of the films who have never read the book have no idea how downright terrifying the thought of Sauron actually was. Long before J.K. Rowling scared the reader with fearful talk of Lord Voldemort, Tolkien used the same devices (though way more effectively, imo) to build up a fear and respect for his Lord of the Rings - Sauron wasn't just a flaming eye atop a tower - he was the devil. He was the most terrifying being in all of Middle-Earth (that takes some doing). I mean, you know someone is badass when Gandalf and Saruman wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of him ;). The way Gandalf always speaks in hushed tones when speaking of Him speaks volumes to the reader of how fearful Gandalf is of Him. The Black Riders of the film aren't a patch on the books, either. The closest anyone got to getting them right was the animated version. In fact Bakshi pretty much nailed them. Indeed, the biggest failing of Peter Jackson's films is that they just aren't scary, and they should be.

I need to pull my finger out and read the book again.

#17 Stefancos

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Posted 27 February 2011 - 11:44 AM

I've always found that because of it's enormity it always takes me a while to actually pick up the book and start reading it again. It's quite a daunting prospect. But as soon as I get into it, it's never as daunting as I feared.

You should really try and read it again Quint. There is far too much going on in the background to absorb in a single reading.
Also with the full knowledge of the book in mind, you can find little aspects that seem to connect to nothing in first, only to find out that they do.





SPOILER

In Shadow Of The Past Sam speaks of his cousin seeing a big walking Elm tree in the woods of the Shire.
In your first read this is of little consequence, but if you know about Treebeard, and his tale of the Entwives, that little segment suddenly becomes important.

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#18 Marian Schedenig

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Posted 27 February 2011 - 01:05 PM

Good example, though still one of the more obvious ones. There's so much to the book one can only understand when actually memorising and considering every little side note mentioned in every sentence. These things slowly become clear with multiple readings. And then there's even more you can't pick up without knowing the Sil.

#19 Chaac

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Posted 27 February 2011 - 01:07 PM

Apparently there's this little place in the Shire that could have been part of the same forest as Fangorn. The same way in the old times the same forest went through half of Europe.

#20 Marian Schedenig

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Posted 27 February 2011 - 01:24 PM

Speaking of terror, fans of the films who have never read the book have no idea how downright terrifying the thought of Sauron actually was. Long before J.K. Rowling scared the reader with fearful talk of Lord Voldemort, Tolkien used the same devices (though way more effectively, imo) to build up a fear and respect for his Lord of the Rings - Sauron wasn't just a flaming eye atop a tower - he was the devil. He was the most terrifying being in all of Middle-Earth (that takes some doing).


Good point, and yet some people who've read the book (and before that movies, mind you) don't get that. I've heard complaints that the finale was too understated, that Sauron should have come out to fight and "be seen" - something PJ actually intended to do, with Sauron battling Aragorn during the final battle. It would have ruined the movie. Sauron's terror derives from in no small part from the fact that as soon as he even becomes aware of you, you're done for. The tension doesn't come from him being so impressive looking or so skilled or whatever that your chances would be bad in a direct confrontation. They would simply be nonexistent, and that's why the tiniest misstep is so frightening.

Of course, there are several common misconceptions, some perhaps to do with the fact that many things are not exactly spelled out in the novel. Why didn't Gandalf fight Sauron himself, or take a more active role? Because the Istari were an emissaries from the Vala, tasked with guiding the peoples of Middle-earth, but not allowed to directly intervene in their cause. Why didn't they just have the Eagles fly them with the Ring from Rivendell to Mount Doom? Aside from the fact that the Eagles might be tempted by the Ring, too, every single appearance of theirs (except perhaps for those in Hobbit) is divine intervention. They don't appear to just make things easier, they appear as a final rescue party if you've earned them.

Speaking of favourite chapters, one of mine is The Shadow of the Past. I love the title, and it perfectly matches the content. There's a very distinctive mood to Gandalf telling Frodo all that history. Tolkien often managed to have his narrative create clear pictures in my mind, even if it's only a fragment of a story. Gandalf and Frodo sitting in conversation is one of these, the brief appendix mention of Dain II standing on a mountain of dead Orcs with his axe until dawn is another one.

Side note: It was during my second read, late at night on the couch in my parent's living room during the summer holidays of 94, that I first heard the music of Star Wars and instantly became hooked. Perhaps Tolkien's atmosphere did its part to put me in the right mind for that. It also means that I must have first read LOTR in 93.

#21 Uni

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 12:10 AM

It also been documented that the book was an outlet for another great passion of his: language. He revelled in the invention of new tongues and dialects, with Elvish soon becoming something of a pet project for him.

I mentioned that in my earlier post.



Speaking of terror, fans of the films who have never read the book have no idea how downright terrifying the thought of Sauron actually was. Long before J.K. Rowling scared the reader with fearful talk of Lord Voldemort, Tolkien used the same devices (though way more effectively, imo) to build up a fear and respect for his Lord of the Rings - Sauron wasn't just a flaming eye atop a tower - he was the devil. He was the most terrifying being in all of Middle-Earth (that takes some doing).


Good point, and yet some people who've read the book (and before that movies, mind you) don't get that. I've heard complaints that the finale was too understated, that Sauron should have come out to fight and "be seen" - something PJ actually intended to do, with Sauron battling Aragorn during the final battle. It would have ruined the movie. Sauron's terror derives from in no small part from the fact that as soon as he even becomes aware of you, you're done for. The tension doesn't come from him being so impressive looking or so skilled or whatever that your chances would be bad in a direct confrontation. They would simply be nonexistent, and that's why the tiniest misstep is so frightening.

Agreed on both counts. One of the things that contemporary (and cinematically trained) readers don't see sometimes is that the scariest things are what you don't see sometimes. Your imagination can make something infinitely worse--and in a world like Middle Earth, often times their imagination had to serve in lieu of actual experience. You have to consider how terrifying it would be, as one living in a land that's known peace and quiet for centuries, to feel a very real and encroaching threat coming from a place on the other side of the world. Mordor is weeks away even on horseback, months if you're traveling by foot along the normal routes . . . and yet you find the evil arising from that country on your very doorstep. For those folks--especially the hobbits, who had no world-sense as Gandalf and the elves did--it would be unspeakably frightening.

But for people living in a world you can circle in an airplane in a day and a half, who are so media-driven they have to see something tangible in order to understand it as a threat, the bogeys of Middle Earth just don't seem as dark and scary. You have to really take yourself out of this world and put yourself in that one to feel the full effect. Fortunately, that's just what Tolkien was a master at doing.


Speaking of favourite chapters, one of mine is The Shadow of the Past. I love the title, and it perfectly matches the content. There's a very distinctive mood to Gandalf telling Frodo all that history. Tolkien often managed to have his narrative create clear pictures in my mind, even if it's only a fragment of a story. Gandalf and Frodo sitting in conversation is one of these, the brief appendix mention of Dain II standing on a mountain of dead Orcs with his axe until dawn is another one.

"Shadow of the Past" is one of my favorites too. It's the first point in the book that really departs completely from the millieu of The Hobbit, the first point where the story really becomes bigger and more real.


The Black Riders of the film aren't a patch on the books, either. The closest anyone got to getting them right was the animated version. In fact Bakshi pretty much nailed them. Indeed, the biggest failing of Peter Jackson's films is that they just aren't scary, and they should be.

On this note--as well as the whole Shadow of the Past thing--one of the best parts of Christopher Tolkien's multivolume recounting of how Tolkien composed LOTR is the point at which the whole tale took a completely unexpected turn and became the story we know now. When Tolkien began writing LOTR, it was simply as a sequel to The Hobbit. He wasn't yet thinking in epic terms, or even of connecting Bilbo's ring to the developing events. He wrote "A Long Expected Party" four times (with each new draft growing larger than the last), in part because he didn't know what to do after that. It told of how Bilbo threw his party and ran off into the wild (in the first draft, all this happens pretty much on the first page). Then the story moves to Bilbo's nephew Bingo Baggins and his two friends Odo and Frodo. They decide to have an adventure much like Uncle Bilbo's sixty years earlier. They go wandering off, not sure where they're headed (much like Tolkien at this point). One day as their walking along the road, they hear hoofbeats up ahead. They dash off the road to surprise whoever it is. A rider hidden under cloak and hood approaches, then stops at the point the hobbits left the road. They hear a sniffling sound. Then, all at once, the rider casts back his hood . . . revealing Gandalf! He calls out to Bingo and his buddies, saying he knows they're hiding nearby.

At this point the narrative stops cold. Evidently it was right here that Tolkien saw an opportunity to make the encounter a more menacing one, and went back immediately to write "Shadow of the Past," add the One Ring as the big MacGuffin, and to bring in the threat of the Black Riders. What's really fascinating is how closely the original account matches up with the final one--right down to the rider's sniffing.

- Uni

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#22 Marian Schedenig

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 12:44 AM

You have to consider how terrifying it would be, as one living in a land that's known peace and quiet for centuries, to feel a very real and encroaching threat coming from a place on the other side of the world. Mordor is weeks away even on horseback, months if you're traveling by foot along the normal routes . . . and yet you find the evil arising from that country on your very doorstep. For those folks--especially the hobbits, who had no world-sense as Gandalf and the elves did--it would be unspeakably frightening.


(I know this isn't a thread about the movies) That's also the reason why I really like Sam's bit in the cornfield at the beginning of FOTR. Most people seem to find it a funnily ridiculous statement from the comic relief sidekick character, but it actually makes a quite profound point: This *is* the farthest away he's ever been from home, and it's not because he's a funny simpleton, but because that's the Hobbit way of life, and just how big an adventure this really is going to be has to be considered from that point of view.

"Shadow of the Past" is one of my favorites too. It's the first point in the book that really departs completely from the millieu of The Hobbit, the first point where the story really becomes bigger and more real.


The Hobbit has a somewhat (on a smaller scale) similarly atmospheric sequence near the beginning, when the Dwarves meet up at Bilbo's and make their plans and sing their song. It's there that the book's wonderful feel of "adventure" (in the way Bilbo probably means that term) starts, with the Lonely Mountain always on the story's horizon. Bilbo's "I want to see mountain's again" in PJ's FOTR, and Shore's melody there and slightly earlier when we see the map on his table, are a great depiction of that.

Speaking of how these tales were conceived... I have yet to read the History of Middle-earth series, but I can wholeheartedly recommend The Annotated Hobbit by Douglas A. Anderson. It's filled with annotations giving notes on literary background and writing history, but most importantly, it has both version of Riddles in the Dark.

That chapter has to be one of the most inspired tricks ever pulled off in literature. When Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, there was no One Ring. Bilbo just found a golden ring which conveniently made him invisible. There was no reason for Gollum to be in any way bound to it. Bilbo's long standing tale that Gollum gave him the ring as a prize for winning the riddle challenge is in fact what happens in the original edition of The Hobbit. When Tolkien writes that Bilbo only much later revealed the actual story, that's exactly what happened with the book - when he came up with LOTR, he rewrote the chapter to *much later* tell what "actually" happened. But since it was of course Bilbo himself who wrote the chapters of the Red Book that would be "translated" by Tolkien and released as The Hobbit, the original version of course contained his own version of the story.

#23 BloodBoal

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 04:43 PM

I'm gone for three days, and this is when they decide to create a Tolkien thread !

Oddly enough, this thread was created the same day I started rereading The Fellowship Of The Ring. Talk about a coincidence! (not that anybody cares, but whatever...)

A lot have already been said about this amazing book, so I don't have much to add for the moment.

For now, I'll give you a file which shows the revisions that were made to the chapter Riddles in the Dark that Marian already mentioned in the post above mine (see, Lucas was not the first one to revise one of his early works ;) ) :

Riddles in the Dark : pre-LOTR/post-LOTR

On the left column is the original 1937 version, on the right column, the 1950 revised version. Parts in blue indicate the changes that were made. They start page 6, but the most important ones are from page 11 to page 19. Enjoy !

I'll post a few thoughts on Tolkien's work soon...

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#24 Jay

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 04:56 PM

Cool link, thanks for that!

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#25 Faleel

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 06:07 PM

Now that is a difference, though I prefer the revised version

Among all the things I have done in my short and pitiful life, becoming an inside joke on JWFAN is the one I'm the least proud of.


The additional passage was interesting but not really something I would consider absolutely essential.


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#26 John Crichton

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 06:11 PM

Cool, I've always wanted to see the two versions side by side.
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#27 Stefancos

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 06:17 PM

Yeah it's very interesting. And I have to say that I really prefer the revised draft.

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#28 crocodile

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 06:24 PM

So where exactly can I read about the different versions? Not counting this pdf, I mean.

Karol - who also loves The Shadow of the Past chapter very much.
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#29 Stefancos

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 06:25 PM

The Annotated Hobbit has both versions

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#30 crocodile

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 06:26 PM

Oh thanks.

Karol
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#31 Stefancos

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 05:43 PM

I'll be reading it myself after finishing with LOTR.

Right now Frodo, Sam and Gollum have departed from the company of Faramir, on their way to Cirith Ungol, and the dark terror that lies beyond.

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#32 Stefancos

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 02:12 PM

Last week I truly have been racing though the book.

I love The Voice Of Saruman, and the Hobbit's happy reunion with The Three Hunters. I love these chapters that consists of people sitting down and talking about things we mostly already know. It's talking heads exposition, but it works.

Leaves from the South Farthing in Isengard??? Did the Rangers of the North not know that there was an export of the stuff going past Bree?

Amazing how Tolkien relies on, and is able to get away with coincidence (or destiny). From out of the vastness of Middle Earth, to stumble upon Faramir, brother of Boromir.

Gollum, what a fascinating character. Repulsive, yet complex.

Shelob the great. One of my favorite passages from the whole book is how Tolkien describes her, not just her looks, but her origin. Shelob becomes much more then just a giant spider.

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#33 Jay

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 03:25 PM

Yup! The whole Shelob sequence is amazing in teh book, its a shame what they did to it in the film

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#34 BloodBoal

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 03:30 PM

The way Sam and Frodo are separated (in the book) never really worked for me (from what I remember). But I do agree that in the film, that sequence wasn't as good as it is in the book.

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#35 Stefancos

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 04:15 PM

I find the segment right after Samwise leaves the presumably dead Frodo up untill the final cliffhanger of TTT to be a bit clunky in it's construction. The actuall final part though, is brilliantly suspensefull.

The whole War Of The Ring segment of ROTK just flew by. Tolkiens description of the Siege of Gondor and balltle on the Pellenor Fields is even better then Helm's Deep. Denethor is a brilliant character, and there is an actual sadness in his fall. Hihglight must be Theoden's final ride into mythology and lasting heroism.

I love the contrast between the faiths of Theoden and Denethor. Both ensnared by the enemy, driving into despair and darkness. Yet Theoden King emerges as the conquering hero, while Denethor the steward, a man of far greater heritage and wisdom succumbs to evil.

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#36 Chaac

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 05:48 PM

You people are making me want to reread the books. This time in English, though!

#37 Marian Schedenig

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 11:33 PM

Shelob the great. One of my favorite passages from the whole book is how Tolkien describes her, not just her looks, but her origin. Shelob becomes much more then just a giant spider.


I can still clearly remember the first time I read the last page of that chapter. What a cliffhanger.

#38 Stefancos

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 10:09 AM

Verily!

But all of Tolkiens moment were he switches from one set of characters, and one aspect of the story are well chosen. Each switch enhancing the suspense of the story.

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#39 Stefancos

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 03:16 PM

Stand, Men of the West! Stand and wait! This is the hour of doom.

It is done!

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#40 Stefancos

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Posted 24 March 2011 - 11:20 PM

I finally managed to finished the appendices (well most of them).

I'm always surprised how much great stuff is contained in these very dry notes. Between the seemingly endless names of kings and their descendants are little story details that become more engrossing, not to mention significant each time you read them.

I do tend to skip large parts about the Elvish letters and pronounciation of the different Elvish languages and things like that.

Appendix F II i purposely skipped completely this time. It's is probably my single least favorite part of Tolkiens writings that I encountered so far. (I never was much interested by the conceit that Tolkiens book was all translated from the Red Book of Westmarch).

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