Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
The Lord of the Rings: A Classic
I was very young when I was first introduced to The Hobbit. I could not have been older than seven when I was swept completely into the journey with Bilbo and the dwarves on their way to reclaim treasure from the dragon. When the story was over, I wanted the magic to continue, so I sought out my father’s copy of The Fellowship of the Ring, which was much more difficult to understand. (Tolkien loved him some semicolons, and I was a second grader.)
The truth was, I wasn’t quite ready for Frodo’s epic adventure then, so I had to put it aside for a while, disappointed by my first introduction to Tolkien’s next generation. I thought Bilbo’s nephew, Sam, Pippin, and Merry were a bit boring. It took them too long to do anything. I did not get beyond them stealing mushrooms, as if that was even noteworthy. Already cynical, I snapped the cover shut and quietly returned that tale to the bookcase to collect dust again in my parents’ home.
Fortunately, very soon after this, I had a birthday. I unwrapped a boxed collection of books about a place called Narnia. (I still have that same, now battered box in my office today, the spines of the well-loved novels contained within, cracked and fading from a girl’s constant rereading.)
Upon adult reflection, that proved to be the exact right time for me to meet Lucy, Susan, Peter, and Edmund. I could understand Aslan before I understood Aslan. I think now that C.S. Lewis kept me enthralled with fantasy and, in this way, he would serve as a kind of bridge that would take me back to his fellow Inkling.
Time rolled by, as it inevitably does, and there was a summer evening on which I went with my mother to the library with no particular agenda apart from having something to do. Wanting to escape from the mundane of an endless August, I somehow found Smith of Wooten Major, which I read sitting cross-legged on the commercial orange carpet in the middle of the fiction aisle as grownups walked around me as if I were an island. (If you’ve not heard of it, this is a wonderful Tolkien tale about magical cakes and the Land of Faery that lingered with me long after I forgot the title.)
By then I was a mature 10 or 11, and my hunger for Middle Earth began to rumble again.
Something must have changed about how I read stories because the next thing I knew, I had blown the dust off The Fellowship’s cover and consumed The Lord of the Rings in full. The complex sentences that had once meandered aimlessly like the feet of homeless rangers now rang with the music of elves, the rhythm of poetry.
Looking back at my own intellectual development, I suppose that was the exact right time for me to meet Strider in Bree. I could understand the clash between evil and good that is illustrated by Mordor and the West long before I understood the nature of evil and good. I felt I had entered a realm that helped me see my own world in a different way while entertaining me as much as The Hobbit had once done. That is something only a masterpiece can accomplish.
Of course, I understand Tolkien is not everyone’s cup of tea. His style is that of a man who reveled in classic works. He takes his time on paper, though I find this builds suspense if one is patient enough to let the action unfold. To be enveloped by his story … to start to like his semicolons.
For some reason, I felt inspired to pick up Tolkien’s magnum opus a couple nights ago and have started reading again from the beginning, and I feel thus far as if I’m spending time with a very old, very good friend.
Additionally, I know I will get something new from the story this time around because I have changed, as we tend to do, since the last time I read it. I am already annoying my husband by keeping the reading lamp on late.
I know I am not alone in my own taste in literature as Tolkien’s works are loved by many. Still, I wonder what other books have meant as much to others as The Lord of the Rings does to me. What works do you reread with joy? Why?Published in Literature
That’s a hard question to answer; tastes vary between people sometimes for no discernible reason. I read Sword a couple decades ago, and I can’t say my memory of Brooks’ writing style is perfect.
Best guess is that Brooks was a lot lighter on the exposition. You only need to know who the bad guy is, why he’s trying to kill the good guy (aside from just being evil), how they’re planning on killing the bad guy, and then it’s all we have a difficulty this is how it gets overcome.
Tolkien built the whole history and then sliced out one part of one story and made a novel of it. You don’t understand the Ring until you understand it’s position in the war between the bad guys and the good guys. That means he ends up doing a lot more expositing before you get any sense of immediate danger. And then a whole lot more in between action scenes.
Actually, on the subject of action scenes it might just be that you don’t care to read about the small doings of the Shire. I get the sense that many Tolkien fans love his world and suck up every small detail about it. If you’re just not that interested, well, then you’d be just not that interested in the books.
I think that if you don’t understand why it was a huge failing that The Scouring of the Shire wasn’t in the movies, then you don’t truly understand the story. :-)
Thanks, Hank. I think you nailed it. Resonates with me. Illuminate the bad guy and his nefarious plan. Greenlight killing him. I’m in.
Actually, Tolkien himself wrote that it was a Catholic work, unconsciously at first, and then consciously.
Brooks has some good books. They’re not half as good as Tolkien.
I tried writing some thoughtful criticism. I give up–not enough time just now.
Here’s some not-so-thoughtful criticism.
Brooks has some great names–Allanon, Shannara, Eventime.
Brooks has some ok names–Shea, Flick, Amberle.
Brooks has some terrible, terrible names–Cogline.
Tolkien’s names range from ok to soul-healing. He could do that because he wasn’t just making up names that sounded fantasy-ish. He was discovering the embedded in the meanings and sounds of the languages he was writing based on his very strong skills as a philologist.
Amazing work. A whole book could be written on Tolkien’s names.
Another thing books can be written on.
And they are. Most of them I’ve not read.
I read one, and it was so good that one was probably enough. It’s the one by Dr. Wood at Baylor.
Google it if you want. I think it’s Ralph Wood. Not to be confused with Robert Wood of University of Dallas–both good scholars, though.
I agree! Forgive me if I’m repeating what others have already written – I haven’t read the whole thread – but there are so many ghastly changes. Where to start: In the books, Aragorn is not a conflicted man, trying to escape his destiny. He is resolute from the get-go. Frodo is not a soft, childish, anguished Hobbit but a middle-aged one with a sharp mind and a strong will. Merry and Pippin are more than comical goofs. Faramir is NOT nasty, as he certainly is at times in the movies. Boromir is more sympathetic in the movies than he is in the books.
You are right about Aragorn as well. It doubly annoyed me when he was pulled off the mountain right before Helm’s Deep. (Some of the changes in the storyline were… unnecessary.)
There certainly is no shortage of books which explore the Catholicism of LOTR. Joseph Pearce has written on the subject, and there’s a decent collection of essays titled “A Hidden Presence – The Catholic Imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien”, which includes authors such as Peter Kreeft, Stratford Caldecott, Fr. Longenecker, and others. I have others but the titles and authors are escaping me now…
This one is interesting. As a girl from Georgia, I understand old men who move slow and talk slower aren’t stupid at all but deliberate. I think this was hard to convey in a film?
I’ve read and re-read several works by Fritz Leiber: the novel Gather, Darkness and three or four short stories such as Coming Attraction, America the Beautiful, Sanity, Poor Superman, and A Pail of Air. The main reason I re-read them is that they are good stories and Leiber is one of the all-time great science fiction/fantasy writers. The last has a wonderful line that a father says to his son when, given the seeming hopelessness of their situation, the son asks why he kept on struggling. “Because the texture of life is good, and that is as true for the last man as it was for the first.”
And using Gimli as comic relief was annoying. The dwarf-tossing business at Helm’s Deep was criminal!
Golly, Tolkien understood that. Farmer Maggot could see through a brick wall in time.
But they did not want to convey that in the film. He made the wrong decision, fell for a silly ruse from Pippin, suddenly discovered cut trees he should have known about already, and then made a new decision in about ten seconds.
Amen. To be fair, in the extended edition they show him winning the Orc-killing contest with Legolas, who’s a bit of a whiner about it.
In that sense you might do better with the Hobbit. It’s much more linear than the Lord of the Rings. Dragon? Check. Treasure? Check. Intel on a secret door? Check. Alright, let’s rock this quest.
Yeah, that bothered me too.
I agree. What is deliberate, long-considered action in the books is shown in the movie as an instant change of heart and instant change in action – very un-ent-like.
How many kings does a girl have to sleep with the get that name?
Gore may have invented the internet, but Hemingway invented Twitter.
Very clever, @TBA! Very clever indeed!
I consumed the Narnia and LoTR series as my mother finished them. After lights out, I would read them under the covers. I think it was a few years later that I read C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy. In between, I had consumed anthologies of Greek, Norse, and Egyptian mythology and George MacDonald’s fiction.
I still remember Mother shouting one evening, as she read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “Father Christmas is John the Baptist!”
He’s good, but he’s no Dashiell Hammett. ‘Course, I’m not a big crime fiction reader.
I think we need a Brooks vs. Tolkien thread, guys. A whole thread. Big nerd-fight. It would be awesome.
JK Rowling borrowed, and borrowed, and borrowed from Tolkien. Sometime I’m going to make a list of all the concepts and characters she borrowed. I didn’t read any Tolkien at all until about 6 years ago, when I devoured the whole thing in a very short time. Same with Narnia. I found a wonderful illustrated edition of the entire Chronicles at Costco, and it lives in my bedroom for me to pick up when I feel the need.
Reminds me of the joke of the teenager first introduced to Tolkien. “Man, that guy really ripped D&D off. Aragorn? Total ranger.”
They say Isaiah quotes from Handel a lot.
Nothing wrong with borrowing concepts though. Most or all good literature does that. Tolkien and Lewis are great borrowers and remixers.
Has anyone else read Dorothy Dunnett’s House of Niccolo and Lymond Chronicles? Both multiple-book series, set in Renaissance Europe and Africa. I discovered them totally by accident, and they are fascinating, with the protagonists meeting real historical figures.
I’ve never read anything by Bukowski, but someone who could say this is worth reading: We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.
He’s next on me reading list.
That is why there is only one Tolkien; he didn’t do research to write a book, he did research to do research. His writing is mythic because he absorbed myth.
There are many fine writers of fantasy, but probably none with roots so deep.
Which, by the way, doesn’t necessarily mean that his stuff is particularly readable. Ideally a writer writes in service to his audience, but if he only does that he is liable to pander. There should be something else. For Tolkien it was the English literature and Christianity.
Plus he smoked a pipe and that makes everything at least 10% more smarter.
The “secret fire” and “flame of Urun” are the Holy Spirit according to the man himself in his letters (the Humphrey Carter edition) as is the wind that blows the foul clouds of Mordor away during the Battle of Minas Tirith. And Gandalf is as Mayar supposed to be a mixture of elements of Christ (the resurrection) and the Archangel Michael (slaying the Great Dragon/Balrog).