Narrative Transport. The official Michael Pryor website.

August28th

Jenny Blackford


 

Hidden somewhere in one of the cupboards, I have a small cross-stitched sampler hand-embroidered (and designed) by a friend when we were both 14 or so. It’s in Elvish. I also own the Donald Swann record of the poems and songs of Middle-Earth, which includes J.R.R Tolkien reading “A Elbereth Gilthoniel”. I suspect that I can still recite most of the words. I can certainly still dredge obscure Middle-Earth facts out of long-unused areas of my memory – for example, that Elrond is Galadriel’s son-in-law.

Yes, I’m a Lord of the Rings tragic. I don’t dare open the books, or I wouldn’t get anything else done until I finished rereading them yet again. The trilogy has (almost) everything: humour, deep history, high drama, languages, mysterious forms of magic, romance (albeit rather chaste), relentless villains, flawed heroes – even dragons and Elves. And I always did like it that they’re not just elves, but Elves.

I know that people either love or hate the trilogy, so that’s as far as I’ll go in trying to convince anyone of the virtues of LOTR (though I can’t resist pointing out that the prose is a delight, nothing like the debased Quoth that so many insist it is; archaic language is only ever used when it’s appropriate and even necessary, usually in scenes involving characters who have outlived many generations of human beings – even if they still look young, or at least ageless.)

LOTR was a perfect fit for the teenage me: a fey budding poet obsessed with ancient languages and Faery, a misfit in one of the roughest High Schools in the Hunter Valley, where surfies ruled and netball was brutal. What could have been better than a trilogy that grew out of a philological obsession with the deep myth/historical background to a set of invented languages? With Elves?

Jenny Blackford’s most recent book is The Priestess and the Slave, 2009, Hadley Rille Books (http://www.hadleyrillebooks.com/priestess.html). For more, see Jenny’s website or her blog.

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6 Comments

  • Comment by George Ivanoff — August 28, 2012 @ 2:47 pm

    Great post, Jenny. I’m afraid I’m one of those readers who thought LotR was a bit of a snorefest. And yet I loved The Hobbit. The difference is that I read The Hobbit as a kid, while I didn’t open LotR until I was well into my adult years. Reading your thoughts on the book, I can’t help but feel I may have like it a lot more if I had read it as a teenager (geeky, fantasy/sf obsessed, bookworm of a teenager, in a very sporty private school). In fact, I’m sorry I didn’t.

  • Comment by Jaime A. Headden — August 30, 2012 @ 6:12 pm

    If I must point to the scenes where poetry and stilted speech abound, look no further than “Houses of Healing,” and Tom Bombadil. But that’s the point. Tolkein is providing a period of calm when the story is hectic. The trough before the crest: suddenly, we are back in the mix, and the poetry fades to revel in the faster pace and true drama, the flight to Bree and to Weathertop, then the race to Rivendell, or the journey to the Black Gate and the plight in Mordor.

    But I don’t point at that to teach Tolkein. I read the Silmarillion, or recount how Gandalf stood against the Balrog: It departs so much from the movies that I like to contrast it, yet it is also not burdened by too many adjectives and flowery language.

  • Comment by Jenny Blackford — August 30, 2012 @ 10:30 pm

    I didn’t say there wasn’t *poetry* sprinkled through LOTR 😉 And, yes, there are a few bits that are a bit on the Quothy side. I do remember the Houses of Healing being a touch too much that way, but Tom Bombadil is Eldest, so it’s only reasonable for things to get archaic around him.

    But many people (mentioning no names) complain loudly and bitterly that the whole thing is unreadable, because it’s written entirely in unendurable Quoth – which is just wrong. As you say, Jaime, the prose is clear and fast when there’s action.

  • Comment by latsot — August 31, 2012 @ 2:06 am

    Tolkein said that his main motive for writing the book was to tell a nice long story. And it’s a *hell* of a story, a fact that often seems to be overlooked.

    You know what else is often overlooked? The fact that the book is *fun*. We can indulge our love of fantasy themes like elves and dwarves and hobbits and people like me can also drool over the backstory. This is all tremendous fun, isn’t it?

    I read it first when I was about eight or nine, I guess. When I read it again now I’m 40 I enjoy it for exactly the same reasons. The audiobook version is also pretty awesome.

    Oh, if you like the book you might want to try the mmog. It’s free to play and has the sort of depth and size you’d expect. Try walking from Hobbiton to Rivendel, takes ages and the landscape changes in lovely, subtle ways that correspond with the book. If you want to wander around Middle Earth, you can.

  • Comment by Kathryn — September 1, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

    I’d love to read Lord of the Rings one day but I adore the movies so I’m not sure whether that would interrupt the enjoyment at all.

  • Comment by Jenny Blackford — September 3, 2012 @ 9:06 am

    Yes, latsot, LOTR is definitely fun! And, Kathryn, I’d certainly recommend trying the books if you love the movies. If they’re not to your taste, you can just go back to the movies, which are not totally faithful to the book, but which are still wonderful in many ways.

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