Monday, September 12, 2011

Daunted by Discourse: A Stab at Tolkien

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Fellowship of the Ring. New York: Ballantine, 1994 (1954).

What, really, remains to be said about The Fellowship of the Ring? It is beloved by readers and geeks the world around, and to even hint that bits of it are slower than others is to arouse the wrath of many thousands of the author's fans. This reading of the book was my second (I have, since September, revisited it a third time) and it captivates me only slightly more each time.

So: if you are not a lover of Tolkien, but you feel you ought to try the Fellowship again, three things:

1) Read the poems aloud. Seriously. They seem long, and possibly irrelevant, butthey are better aloud, and they have much to say about Tolkien's world at large. And, on their own, they are actually very good works of poetry.

2) Read the book in smaller chunks. I am a fan of dashing through a novel, but to do so with Tolkien, being less of a fan than many others, finds me getting bogged down in description I'd rather be skipping. If the book bores you, set it aside for a while, and come back to it later.

3) Read the book as a history, rather than a novel. Tolkien's world, I am slowly learning, is larger than I ever dreamt, and the books, for all their excitement and plots, are filled with allusions to his greater histories (now, and slowly, being published). If Tolkien doesn't provide literary relaxation, approach him as a good historian, and savour the details he provides of this world that exists only in the imagination.

My understanding and appreciation of Tolkien is ever-so-slowly expanding, but it has taken reading him as a scholar to appreciate his fiction.

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