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View Diary: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Club: The Hobbit (part 1) (209 comments)

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  •  Google Earth Stonehenge (41+ / 0-)

    And scroll down the hill to see the barrows (slight mounds that are the tombs of very old leaders). You can see the history and the magic.

    The magic of Tolkein is that he began with real history and real linguistics. If he had access to the DNA info we have today (Welch are Basques!) it would be even more fascinating.

    Like all the really great authors, Tolkein relies on real information and history, and then asks "What if!" I've been hooked for 40 years.

    •  Certainly he does. (21+ / 0-)

      Tolkien was a student of mythology as well as language.  Gandalf's Elvish name "Mithrandir" is very likely a reference to the ancient Near Eastern religion surrounding Mithras.  And the Lord of the Rings is so full of classical references: Edoras = Heorot, Grima = Grendel, Aragorn = Aeneas, Faramir = Hector, Gandalf, Aragorn and Frodo = Jesus (each dying and being reborn in some fashion--don't forget the King of the Dead episode); Minas Tirith = Troy.

      As a further little note, I love the episode where the gravely wounded Faramir is carried back into Minas Tirith: you could imagine, with names changed, that being the scene when the dead body of Hector is brought back into Troy.

      •  I have a friend (10+ / 0-)

        medieval scholar, who has never cared for Tolkien's books precisely because she knows all his source material, can tell which scenes are cribbed from where, and in her words can even see the stitches holdong them together.

        into the blue again, after the money's gone

        by Prof Haley on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 07:33:02 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks to Tolkien, the original stories ... (14+ / 0-)

          ... became easier to find and read.

          (For those who were interested.)

          I know some people who have legitimate gripes about the old professor's work, but let 'em gripe. His intro to the Ballantine PB tells about his opinions, and acknowledges others.

          Millions of us – the majority – must come together to insist that President Obama and the Democrats stand up and fight for the things we sent them there to do ... Michael Moore

          by MT Spaces on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 08:19:02 AM PST

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          •  Did you mean to link there? (5+ / 0-)

            Just odd to me if you didn't.

          •  I guess I'm one. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            linkage, quarkstomper

            I read The Hobbit first, and thought it was a cute kids' book [I was 11-12 at the time]. I read Fellowship and about a hundred pages in, I thought "I'm too old for this." Tolkien's wooden prose didn't help. I found Two Towers was such a slog that I ended up skimming Return of the King just to say I finished the thing.

            into the blue again, after the money's gone

            by Prof Haley on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 11:27:46 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The First Few Chapters (5+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MT Spaces, radarlady, IM, WB Reeves, raboof

              The first few chapters of Fellowship suffer from what Tolkien called "hobbitry".  Many readers get turned off by the rustic cuteness and bail out -- and those who tough it out have to face the horror which is Tom Bombadil.

              "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

              by quarkstomper on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 02:07:32 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  The problem with the Bombadil Chapters (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                IM, Ahianne, raboof, quarkstomper

                is structural: they slow down the plot just when it should be picking up.  It isolates the hobbits from the suspense Tolkien has managed to build up, and the story works better when you move right to Bree, as the movie did.

                Once you've read LotR two or three times, you probably skip over the Bombadil chapters.  After you've read it a dozen or more times, it's time to return to those chapters, because you're no longer concerned with moving the plot forward, you're looking for other things.  The Bombadil chapters are worthwhile, they just don't fit into the story.

                I've lost my faith in nihilism

                by grumpynerd on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 04:37:33 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Bombadil is my favorite part! (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  radarlady, quarkstomper, MT Spaces

                  I find him the most mysterious and least explained character in the whole canon.

                  Why doesn't the ring affect him? It affects elves, men, hobbits and even Gandalf who is an Istari (more or less equivalent to an angel). Why does Gandalf describe him as "last as he was first"?

                  Help us to save free conscience from the paw Of hireling wolves whose gospel is their maw. ~John Donne

                  by ohiolibrarian on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:17:54 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I get bored with the Bombadil chapters myself, but (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    radarlady, quarkstomper, MT Spaces

                    I have a friend who likes those chapters very much, because she feels its important that there is one thing in Middle-earth that can't be touched by the ring.

                    There's so much in those books, and everyone will respond in their own way, and discussing it with others can make you think of things you never thought of before.

                •  The Bombadil interlude to me supplies a crucial... (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  radarlady, IM, quarkstomper, MT Spaces

                  story element, not through Bombadil himself but through Old Man Willow and the Barrowights.  Much like Bilbo at the beginning of The Hobbit, Frodo and his buds have led a sheltered life in the Shire thanks to Gandalf and the Rangers.  So they need a little toughening up before they're ready to face the dangers of the outside world.  If Tolkien had not let them have the showdown with the tree and the throwdown in the Barrowdowns--even though Bombadil had to come to the rescue--their later encounter with the Wraiths in Bree might not have been as credible.  By taking his hobbits one step at a time out of the mundane and into ever-heightening peril, the Good Professor allows them to develop as protagonists in a much more digestible way than just putting them face-to-face with the Lord of the Nazgul.  Old Tom keeps them alive, sets them on the right path and gives them some good advice--what more can you ask of a plot device?

                  It ain't free speech if it takes cash money.

                  by Uncle Igor on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 11:23:29 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  The Cask of Bombadillo (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MT Spaces

                  There are some good bits in the Bombadil chapters and a couple of fairly important plot points.  I'm just Ring-Ding-A-Dillo Intolerant.

                  "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

                  by quarkstomper on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 11:58:02 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  Tolkien's prose was splendid. (15+ / 0-)

              I refer you to the scene where Frodo leaves Bag End after having sold it, which is one of the finest pieces of English prose I've ever read. Or examine one of Tolkien's numerous descriptions of bosky woodland landscapes, something he does better than nearly any other writer I can think of. Tolkien was not a writer without faults, and Lord of the Rings (LotR) has many artistic shortcomings, as any work of that scope must have.  If one chooses to focus on the shortcomings exclusively, one will find plenty ammunition for taking potshots at it. But wooden prose is not an accusation that holds up to scrutiny. Tolkien's ear for the cadences of English was uncommonly keen.

              The faults in the story are mainly structural, and mostly located in The Fellowship of the Ring.  This first volume of the trilogy shows clear signs of Tolkien trying to shoehorn the story into what his publishers wanted -- a sequel that was consistent in tone and style with The Hobbit. We get one brief scene in Fellowship told from the point of view of a passing fox -- a Hobbit-like touch that happened once but was not repeated in the following thousand pages. We get the whole Tom Bombadil digression -- ironically wonderfully written in themselves but irrelevant to the story. We get pages and pages of Hobbits just goofing off.  We get scenes where the narrative point of view is unstable, hopping from head to head (particularly "elvish" scenes).  These structural and narrative faults make Fellowship of the Ring nearly impossible to get through for someone who is not well-disposed toward fantasy literature in the first place.  But that's not the same has having wooden prose style.

              Oddly, high-culture critique of LotR misses these faults, instead latching onto points that make one suspect the critic hasn't given the story a very close reading.  Take the common complaint that the characters are shallowly drawn, being either paragons or total villains with no psychological depth or complexity.  Boromir's temptation scene is a good counter-example, a fine portrait of rationalization as has ever been written. What critics may be reacting to is a view of human character which deliberately ignores common twentieth century views of psychology. For Tolkien, we are born innocent and we either walk the narrow path to fulfilling our potential or (very likely) we fall. And if we fall, we can't be redeemed through enlightenment -- the paradigm of psychoanalysis.  Redemption for Tolkien requires the action of grace.

              Often criticisms of Tolkien's prose misses the point. Take the common complaint that all the characters speak in hifalutin' archaic dialect. This is manifestly untrue. Although most characters speak in an archaic style, it varies. Tolkien uses dialog and dialect as characterization with uncommon skill and a certain satirical irony. T.A. Shippey has pointed out that the two characters in Tolkien's books that sound completely modern are Smaug the dragon and Saruman the traitor, and I very much doubt that was an accident.

              I happen to agree with you that The Hobbit is probably altogether a better-written book than LotR.  I disagree that it is just a "kid's book"; a lot of the humor in the story is bound to go over the heads of anyone without thirty or forty years of life experience. There are considerable subtleties to the story that aren't apparent on the first reading.

              I've lost my faith in nihilism

              by grumpynerd on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 02:11:32 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Different strokes for different folks, as they (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MT Spaces

              say.  You found the prose wooden; I find the language beautiful.

        •  I can see where that could be annoying, but (0+ / 0-)

          whatever the influences for parts of Tolkien's story were, the story stands by itself.

          I am not at all religious, and I don't consider "dying and coming back to life," to be the essential quality of Gandalf.  As to whether Frodo "died and came back to life," that's a matter of interpretation.  And did Aragorn ever die and come back to life in the book?  In the movie, he was thought to be dead and then wasn't, but that didn't happen in the book.  Maybe something like that happened in the appendix, and I've forgotten?

          •  That was pure Jackson (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            He had to stick in a "romance" bit. The appendices cover a very great deal of background, with two pages devoted to the back-story of Aragorn's romance. That's really most useful, plot-wise, for explaining why he's off as a Ranger when we first meet him. But T-town never met a bit of suck-face that it couldn't inflate.


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