Writers Write: My Favourite Book 31

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.