Tolkien Tuesday #2

11 January 2022

I’m sat at my writing desk, with the biggest mug of tea imaginable (it must hold around at least a pint!) to one side of me, and my copy of The Lord of the Rings on the other. Elsewhere in the room, a pink rhubarb and pear wax tart is melting in the burner, infusing the air with the scents of orchards and vegetable plots and the harvest…all very apt as we begin our journey through Middle Earth in the Shire. To add the final touches to the scene, the soundtrack to The Fellowship of the Ring is playing softly(ish) in the background. And now I feel I’m ready to proceed with this week’s Tolkien Tuesday…

The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts

Funnily, after proclaiming which edition of The Lord of the Rings I would be using for this reading journey, I actually started with a different one:

This is a single volume of The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien, paperback, large format, published by HarperCollins, 1996. It is beautifully illustrated by Alan Lee. And much easier to hold than last week’s featured edition 😉

This week I read: the Foreword and the Prologue, and made a start on Chapter 1, which I will discuss next time. I’m pleased to report the slow reading is going well so far, and I’ve noted that I currently seem to be reading with a writer’s eye…

There was much for a writer to take away from the Foreword, most notably that Tolkien wrote to please himself not a market, and his enjoyment of his own imagination and creation is clearly evident in his prose. Also, the book took as long to write as it needed, which is indeed encouraging for those of us who feel the pressure of writing to meet (self-imposed) deadlines. So perhaps we should let them go, if they cause more consternation than aid productivity…

As for the Prologue, I would highly recommend any (would-be) writer of fantasy to study it. Here is set out, neatly and plainly, and in a manner that is easy to follow, for both the author and the reader, the all-important foundation of the book. We are given a summary of who and what Hobbits are, where they live, how the Shire is ordered, how they fit into the wider-context of the world and how they perceive that world and the other folk in it. It is a brief history, a character analysis and the background for the story to come, all in one, not-overly long chapter. To write such a chapter before beginning on a story would no doubt help in keeping story facts and world rules consistent and ordered in the subsequent storytelling, if one usually have trouble with such things.

Middle Earth Musings and Meditations

This week’s musings were primarily focused on the nature and personality of Hobbits as Tolkien outlines them in the Prologue’s “Concerning Hobbits”. I came away thinking of them as being merry, joyful in spirit and prone to smiling and laughter. Quite simply, they are, on the whole, perceived as good-natured. I’ve decided, in this respect, I need to be more hobbit-like 🙂

After that, and inspired by the same passage as the previous musing, I began pondering on occupations and work in the Shire, quickly followed by handicrafts. Hobbits are described as skilful and adept at crafts but not fans of machinery – quite like me then! And when Tolkien mentioned hand-looms that got me thinking that I would like to take up weaving again.

I am a very crafty person (you can find my sporadically-updated craft blog here) – I knit, crochet, sew, cross-stitch, make books and jewellery, draw, paint and design. I have done a little weaving in the past, most recently when I learnt stick-weaving which is thought to be one of the earliest forms of textile creation (a lot of my crafting is often inspired by history and archaeology). As for loom weaving though, I have done hardly any, only making three coasters or mug rugs:

…the extent of my loom weaving to date…

So, inspired by this week’s reading, I am setting myself a challenge to complete in 2022: to weave a scarf. I’ll share updates as I go a long…

Elsewhere

I’ve still yet to decide how I want to “stock” my “Tolkien and Middle Earth” shelf on Goodreads (links to my profile can be found in the sidebar). However, I have started to add books that I already own to it, which would be included regardless of my final choice.

Also, I’ve spent some time flicking through David Day’s Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia. Much of the artwork included is quite different from the artwork often seen regarding Middle Earth.

The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:

Are you looking forward to the Amazon Prime Lord of the Rings series which is set for release in September 2022?

In a word, no. I could write at length as to why as I have a few misgivings, but one thing above all others makes me nervous, and it is that one which I will mention here. I fear it being no more than A Game of Thrones set in Middle Earth. If this series doesn’t match the tone of the books – the tone Tolkien carved out for these stories – I think it will be a terrible thing.

I do hope I’m wrong. I’ve seen some of the amazing names on the cast list which raises my hopes for the series and I can easily imagine them being perfectly cast for these roles, but ultimately, it will be the type of story, the style of storytelling and above all, the tone of the content that will make or break this series, for me.

Note: I have no problem with A Game of Thrones. Having read the books and watched the series, I enjoyed them both well enough. What’s worth pointing out is this: the tone and content of the series matched the tone and content of the book.

18 thoughts on “Tolkien Tuesday #2

  1. I always read prologues and anything else the author took time to write.
    Love the loomed pieces.
    And no. Why create a mini-series? It’s all about the money. We have the movies and the books, we really don’t need to be watching a series – no matter who plays what… But that is just me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Sitting down with such a mug of tea and LOR sounds wonderful! It was the first fantasy I read and I pull it out to read every few years just to remind me of excellent high fantasy. Didn’t know about the Amazon version. Like you, I don’t hold much hope it will be good.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These are very interesting observations and they partly oppose, and partly mirror, my own.
    I have friends who tried, in vain, to get ‘into’ LOTR. They never made it past the first chapter. They told me the whole Hobbit lore seemed boring to them, they had no connection to the little folks and weren’t expecting much excitement to come. I suggested they start with The Hobbit–they did, and from then on were strong fans as much or more as I was. I also started with The Hobbit, on recommendation of another friend.
    Reading the prologue and foreword now, I wonder how people would perceive it who hadn’t read The Hobbit nor seen the movies. Would they be bored?
    This brings me to another question. These days, there’s all the writing advice about showing, not telling and limiting the exposition. If there is one thing prominent in the Tolkien books, it’s exposition. There’s also a lot of telling. Do we love it because we read it before being told the writing advice? Do we love it because we read it before the movies came along and before social networking that limited our attention spans to headlines and short texts? Or is it just me?
    I don’t know. I don’t know if I would like diving into a new book with a similar style, full of lengthy intro and explanations. I think I need to love a world first, through the story and characters, and then want to know all the background knowledge. I’m not sure I’d have the patience these days to get into something like LOTR without having something fun and exciting like The Hobbit introducing me to it first.
    This is only my view of course, but I’ve been thinking that, maybe, if we want to write a long and exhaustive fantasy (or SciFi or whatever takes a lot of world building) we could start out with a few short stories, or a novella to get ourselves and potential readers used to the ideas. Maybe some already do that, but I’m not aware of it. Of course if we only write for ourselves, as is often proclaimed, we needn’t worry about that. But I think most of us not only want to write, but also to be read, to see a reaction to what we write. As usual, the golden way will be somewhere in the middle, I suppose.
    To answer your question: I have heard about the mini series, but haven’t followed up on the information nor seen any trailers yet. I say, why not? If they get ‘the feel’ as you say, it could be a good thing. Mini series have potential to be truer to books than movies–if they aren’t only made for the money and swimming with the current wave of fantasy series. I’d give it a chance.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have often wondered that same thing — how I would perceive The Lord of the Rings if I read it now for the first time. I think it’s clear that ideas and expectations for writing were very different then and have evolved (or devolved) into a desire for much more streamlined prose that would *never* start with a prologue that long. Or a prologue at all, some argue (not me). But Tolkien was starting from scratch and formulating the genre in so many ways, so he got away with stuff we wouldn’t be patient with in writers today. I agree that reading the Hobbit first gives a different perspective on the whole journey, and I will recommend that to folks from now on.

      Liked by 2 people

    • You make some amazing points, Gabi 🙂

      I understand what you’re saying about the prologue. As a reader with no knowledge of the story I expect it would seem like a strange place to begin reading, especially as there are parts of it that suggest what happens to some of the characters once the story has finished, giving a bit of spoiler. And I agree, The Hobbit is the best place to start!

      But, from the point of view of a would-be writer, the prologue is a neat and tidy story bible, outlining the main foundations of the story and the world.

      I suspect you’re right on all counts regarding exposition and telling. And some times, I do wonder if the writing advice we spend our time trying to follow aligns with what readers actually want. After all, from my own reading experience, I love a well-written prologue, set outside the timeline of the tale, decades or even centuries prior to the story, and focusing on other characters that we may not meet again. Yet we are often told to stay well away from prologues…

      Starting with short stories and novellas is a great idea, Gabi. And some might argue that perhaps the shorter forms of writing are the way to go, given our shorter and shorter attention spans, and the fact that many of us are reading more and more via a screens rather than books.

      Thanks so much for joining in, Gabi. I’ve loved reading your thoughts on these topics 🙂

      Like

  4. Sounds like you have the right amount of tea, Sammi! And what a great idea, to try to be more like a Hobbit. I will keep that in mind!

    I hadn’t heard anything about the Amazon LOTR series in a while, so your post reminded me to look it up again. I’m glad I did. I had earlier thought that the TV series would be, well, about the Lord of the Rings books. So I was definitely not excited, because the Peter Jackson movies were so good — how could they top that? What’s the point? But I’m happy to learn that I was incorrect. It is about the same *world*, but it’s a prequel to the Hobbit and LOTR, set in the Second Age of Middle Earth, So in other words, NEW material that we haven’t seen before! SQUEE! I am reassured that Jackson seems to be involved even if he isn’t the director, and especially that they are committing to treating the movies as being canon, and to being consistent with the aesthetics of the films — costumes, sets, etc. That makes me think the tone will be consistent too, I hope!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I too, when first I heard of it, thought calling it Lord of the Rings meant it would be based on the Lord of the Rings books. And although they were quick in saying it was to be set in the Second Age, I think calling it Lord of the Rings was a little misleading. This week, of course, they’ve released the title (The Rings of Power) and the trailer for the series, so hopefully there won’t be anymore confusion surrounding it.

      Reading that Peter Jackson was involved was definitely reassuring, and I’m pleased that the series will look consistent with the films. Yay! All I need hold my breath over now is the storyline(s) and how much mature content will be in it. Again, I have my fingers crossed that in this regard, it will also be like the films! 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Joy – and it’s lovely to see you back in the blogosphere 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Tolkien Tuesday #7 | Sammi Cox

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.