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Post 02 Jun 2015, 4:45 pm

I'm not sure if there had been a discussion of LOTR on Redscape before, but I am starting one anyway. In my opinion, The Lord of the Rings will surely be remembered as one of the greatest books ever written in western (or more specifically English) literature. In fact, I think BBC put it somewhere within the top 100 of greatest works of English literature of all time. I would say I have to agree, even if the book has a bit of a slow start, and, as Tolkien himself put it in the forward to the second edition, "the tale grew in the telling," rather than having been written in a consciously linear fashion.

In that forward, Professor T. (as the authors of its parody Bored of the Rings style him) advises the reader that there is no "allegory", though there is definitely some degree of "applicability" in the novel. Whatever he means by that, allegory describes of course a "hidden meaning", typically moral or political; applicability is "the quality of being relevant or appropriate". Certainly I'd call it "thematic", however, if one wants to go that far. The theme of how bad war is, the cost of losing one, the value of friendship, and even perhaps the rape of nature by the modern world. And of course, the themes that run through the book include those present in the "epic tales" of ancient to medieval English (or Anglo-Saxon) literature. In fact, there is part of The Hobbit that's straight out of Beowulf. But read the spoiler alert below, I won't mention what it is yet.

By the way, if anyone feels like reading the books and/or seeing the movies, as I have read up to the beginning of Chapter II, Book 5 (as books 5 and 6 are published as The Return of the King), you may not want to participate in this discussion as there would be some sort of inevitable spoilers. But I have seen all three movies, in fact, we have the extended versions on Blu-Ray; even though I haven't finished the novel and likely won't for some time. But I have seen none of The Hobbit movies yet; I have however, read the book some years ago. (A pretty easy read if I remember correctly.)

So, spoiler alert on that note.

As I said, there may or may not have been a discussion of LOTR on Redscape before. But why not have another, as fascinating and important as it is? One could discuss this astonishingly epic work of literature for pages I'm sure. (I dropped Clavell for now, in fact, because I remembered I still have LOTR to finish....take note however that i do know some of the differences between The Return of the King movie, and books 5 and 6 of the print novel, and I'm less than likely to watch the three Hobbit films. So no worries on any spoilers to me.)
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Post 03 Jun 2015, 12:31 pm

I first read the Hobbit way back when I was about 12 or so? It was a very difficult read for a 12 year old but well worth it. I found out there was a trilogy set right after the Hobbit book and I had my parents buy that book for me right away. Hey, your kid actually wants to READ!? they got it for me as a Christmas present. I started to read it and very very quickly got lost!

The book (three books actually) got put aside, it was just too much for me to fully grasp and understand. I forgot all about it until I moved away fro college, I found the trilogy and read them while in school (mostly while home for vacations actually). This was many many years before the movies were even a dream (1980 or so?) then when i heard the books were to become movies, I re-read yet again and that was when how brilliant they were fully dawned on me.

I actually have The Hobbit sitting on my night table next to my bed right now. I was going to start re-reading all the books yet again a couple months ago and forgot, this is a nice kick in the pants to get me started yet again!
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Post 03 Jun 2015, 3:26 pm

I first read LOTR when I was 9 and never had too much difficulty with it. Obviously I skipped all the epic poetry and long diversions into elvish and whatnot, but I still do that.
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Post 03 Jun 2015, 11:32 pm

I must admit Tolkien got a little carried away with some of the side stories, but it was of course meant to square with the larger picture of Middle Earth. I've never looked into his lost tales and all that, but of course, there's another way in which he intended his story to be like an Anglo-Saxon epic of some sort: the "epic poetry" (one can actually overuse the word epic but screw it I'm going to). Skippable, but it does make the narrative a little bit more interesting even if they're not as important. Especially of course the "songs" and poetry Frodo's going on about when he's at the inn in Bree before he has his little ring-accident. I guess Tolkien, who swears he wrote the book as a shits & giggles sort of work, just felt like doing it for....s's & g's. But of course I disagree with Tolkien himself, and I think there's at least undercurrents of sorts, if not outright allegory, running through the work; despite the occasional song and poetry here and there (even if said song or poetry didn't necessarily add to the narrative in everybody's opinion who has read it). But I have to admit I skipped quite a bit of things like Treebeard's song about the entwives.

The larger story about the Kingdoms of Gondor (sorry, the People's Democratic Republic of Gondor) and Arnor are interesting, but of course not everything is entirely explained. Like who the rangers are and what they do, etc. There were a few of them mentioned in Chapter II of Book of 5 but they didn't elaborate.
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Post 05 Jun 2015, 3:09 pm

The Rangers are explained somewhere or other, but I can't remember where. I've read Silmarillion and Book of Lost Tales (the latter of which is virtually unreadable since it's just a badly edited collection of notes) so it may be in there I guess.

Having read a lot of SF and fantasy over the years, I can say with confidence that there's an awful lot of it out there which is way better than Tolkien. That said though, it's also true to point out that almost all of the fantasy genre is either a direct rip-off of Tolkein or at least heavily influenced by his work. I wouldn't agree that Lord of the Rings is one of the top books ever written in the English language, but it's certainly up there as one of the most influential.
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Post 05 Jun 2015, 4:50 pm

Yeah, I hope I'm not starting sh*t with anyone within earshot by saying this, but my feeling has always been, why read Harry Potter when you can read the original Tolkien? But that said, I do not think it can be underestimated, for those into literature-y kinda stuff. (Which I guess I am, even if I can't read as much as I would like to these days.)
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Post 05 Jun 2015, 9:07 pm

Yeah the rangers (like Strider) are supposed to be the remnant in the North of the Dunedain or something kingdom that collapsed in the war when the Witch King of Angmar destroyed Fornost or something. But Tolkien does not really explain it all too well.

Not being a native speaker of the Queen's English, but (I will be the first to admit) a rather rude offshoot of it which has unfortunately gained global notoriety (or infamy), I thought I would find the "Reader's Companion" rather useful, and in some ways, it can be, though I have not used it extensively (I prefer to read the damn book first before getting way too analytical about it, especially re-reading it through the analyses of others. But, it does occasionally state the origin of a particular word that has to do with old English history that the average Briton would be aware of but the average American wouldn't have a clue. Such as, what a "barrow" is. I had to look that one up in my copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, or else I would never have known.

Another thing: Tolkien can draw the line between "allegory" and "applicability" all he wants but I find his differentiation wanting. Although he states in his forward: "As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical or topical." Professor T can deny it all he wants, and even flatly criticize any allegory whatsoever in works of literature: there seem to be some definite themes running through the work that I found very critical, not only to its understanding, but to the plot itself.

The rape of nature and the natural world by modern "progress".
Power corrupts, and magic rings corrupt absolutely.
Monarchy and minimalism in government.
Family and tradition.
The history of England.

There's others running through the prose and poetry, but too many to list, here. Those I think are the most important. And I have to admit, there's no way that an American could have written this book. Very English indeed, and it may be partly what attracts American readers (where the book has always been very popular, even before the movies were released).

There are of course three flaws of which I must admit the presence:

1) The superfluous portions. (The House of Tom Bombadil and the whole diversion through the forest is the biggest....Book 1 seems the slowest to proceed! They take forever just to get to Bree. I heard bitching about him not being in the movie and I thought, so what? He was a totally unimportant character.) Also, the Council of Elrond: couldn't we have just had the minutes of the meeting?
2) Lack of detail in other parts is another, where you may have wanted to know more.
3) And finally, there are times when some of the characters sound like Tolkien is speaking, not unique and fictional characters (partly because the English is....well, very traditional, that could be the real reason why.)
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Post 07 Jun 2015, 2:52 pm

By the way, Sass, what's The Silmarillion about?
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Post 08 Jun 2015, 11:59 am

It deals with all of the pre-history. The writing style is a little different. Rather than one dramatic narrative it's a series of fables and tales. It's not bad as a read, but ultimately it's impossible to really relate to any of the characters because they're all rather thin outlines and stereotypes.

The biggest problem with Tolkein's work for me is that women might as well not exist. Literally every single female character in LoTR is either a wise and virtuous maiden or a buxom housewife, with the possible exception of Eowyn, who starts out as a tomboy and goes on to become a wise and virtuous maiden by the end of the story.
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Post 08 Jun 2015, 6:58 pm

I had to look up "buxom" in the OED online, as it is one of those words I know how/where to use in a sentence (by context) but not its dictionary definition. A few of the example sentences were as hilarious as a buxom elf-blonde having a wardrobe malfunction with her armor.

By maiden, you obviously mean an unmarried woman who, in Tokien's old-school-Catholic view of things, would naturally be wearing white at her wedding [cough] or else she's just a whore. Reference the beginning of Monty Python's the Meaning of Life.

I'm trying to go through all the women who somehow figured large (or small, depending on the inherent degree of buxomness, or lack thereof) in LOTR. Let's see now....

Lobelia Sackville-Baggins: does not sound very buxom, nor very virtuous; although definitely a kleptomaniac (re: Bilbo Baggins' last will & testament, the spoons, and her umbrella). Not just a housewife/wallflower, however. Sounds like she ruled the roost as long as her husband, Otho, was alive...
Mrs. Farmer Maggot: yeah, buxom housewife (if three foot-tall women are your thing---if women were my thing I can guarantee you there would be a height requirement, just in case.)
Bilbo's Niece, Angelica: Bilbo's bequest was a convex mirror because she considered her face "a little too shapely". Draw your own conclusions from that.
Goldberry: interested mostly in collecting the flora of the Old Forest her husband, Tom Bombadil, gathers for her. Buxom housewife, definitely.
The Lady Arwen Evenstar: Again in Tolkien's socially-conservative world, Lord Elrond would not have allowed any nookie between his daughter and Aragorn, whatever his lineage. Virtuous maiden, to be sure. And certainly the elf-ladies of Elrond's household aren't really involved in the plot. But there is of course the tale of Beren and Luthien which Strider sings to the four principal hobbit characters. Also virtuous maiden, didn't she die or something before he even got to?
Lady Galadriel: the elf-chick with the magic birdbath had elf-children didn't she? didn't Gimli call her "the fairest to look upon" or something? Must be pretty buxom, but not a housewife/wallflower by any means. Married to Lord Celeborn, but something tells me she wears the pants in this elf-couple.
The Entwives: only a brief mention, and a little ditty from Treebeard about how they lost them. Pretty long damned dry spell, the poor bastards.
Eowyn: the tom-boy thing sounds appropriate, at least if one follows her character development in the 2nd and 3rd movies. But as far as the novel, I don't remember much what she did in Book 3, and I've only read the first couple chapters of book 5 (have to re-read them because I missed something). But I feel your assessment to be likely correct, as the Harvard Lampoon parody, Bored of the Rings, conflates the characters Eomer and Eowyn into a female warrior named Eorache, who speaks with some sort of Germanic accent.

If you're not familiar: http://www.amazon.com/Bored-Rings-Parody-Harvard-Lampoon/dp/1451672667/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1433814687

We must of course give Tolkien a break for that. He 1) was born in the 1800's; 2) was Catholic; 3) was f***-all about Anglo-Saxon myths like Beowulf in which female characters are always drawn from the two categories of which you bespoke. It seems that, of old, it was OK for an upper-class woman to be adventurous. For a lower class woman, well, "kinder-kirche-kitsche" or whatever the German expression is in correct German (children, church, kitchen). Women, obviously, aren't my bailiwick, so I didn't much notice. In fact, I have spoken to several perfectly straight men who have indirectly referenced their own "man crush" on Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) after seeing the films. If these acquaintances of mine ever read the book (not "trilogy" tyvm!), I have a feeling they won't notice either.
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Post 09 Jun 2015, 10:44 am

I wasn't entirely referring to virgins when I talk about 'virtuous maidens', although quite clearly sex is something that never happens in Middle Earth. It was just convenient shorthand for wholly unrealistic paragons of female virtue as conceived by the medieval mind. Goldberry probably comes somewhere between the wise maiden and the buxom housewife concept, but Galadriel definitely fits the stereotype even if she must at some point have had sexual intercourse. If you ever read Silmarillion you'll see that essentially every female character is the same.

The Entwives don't actually exist of course, but if they did I'm sure they'd all be buxom housewives.
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Post 09 Jun 2015, 3:42 pm

Sassenach wrote:The Entwives don't actually exist of course, but if they did I'm sure they'd all be buxom housewives.

The Ents were essentially living trees. That would make the entwives trees as well, right? Or at least 'treeish'. Buxom trees?
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Post 09 Jun 2015, 4:21 pm

Oh I know Sassenach (that you were not referring to virgins when you spoke of "virtuous maidens." I was just trying to be as amusing as possible. Was having rather a "eh..." kind of day and the mention of "buxom" (once I looked up the precise definition) in a Tolkien/LOTR discussion cheered me up immensely. :grin:

Dad said that The Silmarillion was more difficult to read. LOTR itself is not the easiest read in the whole of English literature, at some parts; though at others, the narrative/dialogue flows freely enough for the average adult reader. The Hobbit, having primarily intended by Tolkien to be a children's book, is pretty easy to read, and I picked up a deluxe 75th (or whatever) anniversary copy a while ago.

Funny as anything is the book I linked for you, Bored of the Rings. "When Mr Dildo Buggers of Bug End grudgingly announced he would be throwing a free feed for all the boggies in the Sty, Boggietown was alight with excitement." And "Dildo would have finished Goddam off right then and there, but pity stayed his hand." "Yes," thought Dildo, "It's a pity I've run out of bullets." There's even a knockoff of the "prologue": "The Sty was divided into farthings, half-farthings, and Indian-Head nickels" (that one made my father practically pee himself with laughter when I read it to him).

The ents must be gay, though. How can you just "lose" your ent-wife like that unless 1) you only married her for cover; or 2) you're pining for the payoff of an overly generous forest-fire insurance policy? One good fire strategically-located in Fangorn forest would take care of #2; so I'm not buying all of Treebeard's musical laments about how the Ents just "lost" them. It sounds like massive insurance fraud to me.

Anywho, on a more serious note, you do have a point. But I am glad you didn't go so far as to decry Tolkien as some sort of fascist. I've heard that one thrown around before. Yeah, they're mostly (or all) white. But then again, it's based on Anglo-Saxon epics which found their way from Nordic tales (Besides, it was Hitler who claimed that Germanic = Nordic, and Nordic = the [blank]-all of the human race; not Tollkien!!!!)

OK so Tolkien's work is a little sexist. But then again, the virtuous maidens are present in the story, and probably a lot more present than they would have been in the literature of the time don't you think?

I said one of the themes running through the work was a great respect for monarchy. And it seems the more evil/devious characters are those who subvert it. Like Grima Wormtongue, the strongman of Rohan, whose puppet junta usurped the throne thereof. Denethor is merely a steward but he acts a bit (in the movie and in Chapter I of Book Five of the novel) uppity about his stewardship of the People's Democratic Republic of Gondor, and Gandalf rebukes him for this. ["The rule of Gondor...is mine and no other man's, unless the king should come again."---which he doesn't seem to want to happen.] In the prologue, it says that Hobbits refer to Trolls and other base things that "they have never heard of the king"; and even though the king is long-gone in the Shire as well, they follow his laws as "the rules, both ancient and just."

My only large beef so far is that there are a few superfluous parts, as I mentioned. Someone on amazon reviewed the movie and said "where is Bombadil?" I thought: "duh..."
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Post 11 Jun 2015, 9:40 am

Hey: there's something I've always wondered about, you know. I know I cannot "ask" you guys this question (your reaction will likely be "well, how the hell should we know?") but this is something that has always bothered me and perhaps one of the three of you (or something who hasn't participated yet) has some unique insight, to at least make an "educated guess".

Frodo was stabbed on Weathertop as we all know. But he was stabbed in the SHOULDER! Besides the fact that it would have made the book end on page 196, why did the Witch King of Angmar not stab Frodo with the morgul blade in his heart or somewhere more vital??? I mean, if I had been the Nagzul captain, and my boss was just a few steps shy of Leona Helmsley, I wouldn't even come back to Mordor and try to explain to him why five of us big, nasty, evil Nazgul with deadly weapons failed against four hobbits with dinner cutlery and a man carrying nothing more than a hot poker. I'd find the nearest mailbox, submit my letter of resignation and quit Middle Earth for good.

Mad Magazine, according to the Wikipedia entry on Tolkien, had one of its famous pardies when the movie came out. They're in Rivendell and Bilbo gives Frodo his chic shirt of mithril chain mail for his dangerous journey.

Frodo's reply: Nice timing! The only way this gift could have meant more to me is if you had given it to me back in the Shire. Oh, you know, BEFORE I got stabbed?!!

S.: your comment gives me a thought. I wonder what the word for "buxom" is in Entish? Must be long, but longer still, depending on the precise degree of buximity.
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Post 11 Jun 2015, 10:18 am

From memory, wasn't there an issue with them not being able to see him very well ?