Posts Tagged ‘Middle Earth’

The Hobbit

January 17, 2013

It is a shame that J. R. R. Tolkien’s great work, The Hobbit, has been overshadowed by his still greater work The Lord of the Rings. Nowadays, most people regard The Hobbit simply as the prequel to The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit, however, is a great story even standing on its own.

411I1QXSgCL._AA160_

The Hobbit is the story of the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, a staid, unadventurous member of a staid, unadventurous race. One day, Bilbo is visited by the wizard Gandalf and thirteen homeless Dwarves and somehow becomes their burglar with the job of helping the Dwarves recover their lost gold and home, stolen by the dragon Smaug.

When they first set off on their adventure, Bilbo is not much use to the Dwarves and seems more a burden than a burglar. He can’t seem to do anything right. Over time, however he becomes more confident and takes more of a lead. By the end of the story, he has helped defeat the dragon and has saved the Dwarves lives more than once.

Tolkien shows great skill with the plot of the Hobbit, never allowing the pace to slacken but keeping the reader excited with Bilbo’s adventures.  Throughout the book, he shows the same keen ability to depict the natural world as he does in the Lord of the Rings, and so makes Middle Earth come to life in a way few authors of fantasy can. Bilbo’s growth as a leader and a person are convincingly shown and Tolkien, at times displays a wry wit, especially with the politics of Laketown and Bilbo’s conversations with the Dragon.

If there is one fault with the Hobbit, it is that at times Tolkien was too aware that he was writing a children’s book, and at times, his writing takes on a slightly condescending tone, the sort of tone that adults often use when talking to small children and which the children really don’t like much. Overall, however, the Hobbit is an enjoyable book to read whether on its own, or as the prequel to the Lord of the Rings.

 

Advertisements

The Book of Lost Tales

September 16, 2012

 

Cover of "Book of Lost Tales: Pt. 1 (Hist...

Cover via Amazon

J. R. R. Tolkien was the beloved author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The publication of those two books made him rich and famous all over the world, but the work he was really interested in, his magnum opus, was his collection of the legends and history of the Elves titled the Silmarilion. Tolkien worked on these stories his entire life but when he died in 1973, they were still uncompleted. Fortunately his son and literary heir, Christopher Tolkien, took it upon himself to polish the stories and set them in order so the Silmarilion finally saw publication in 1977.

When I said that the Silmarilion was unfinished, I did not mean that the story breaks off abruptly or that the stories were undeveloped. Tolkien was a perfectionist and kept rewriting the legends over and over, never seeming to want to complete a final, definitive version. Christopher Tolkien’s main task was in deciding which details to use and maintaining some consistency throughout the published Silmarilion.

J. R. R. Tolkien also seems to have been a bit obsessive about keeping every scrap of paper he ever used to write down story outlines, experimental dialog, character sketches, etc. Christopher Tolkien was able to sort out and organize this vast compendium of material and publish it as a multi-volume work which he called The History of Middle Earth. The first two volumes included the earliest versions of the legends and were called The Book of Lost Tales. Later volumes presented later versions and early drafts of the Lord of the Rings, as well as Tolkien’s attempts at writing epic poetry and miscellaneous essays Tolkien wrote on various matters relating to Middle Earth.

These books, while they can be tedious in the amount of detail and commentary that Christopher Tolkien provides, are nevertheless quite interesting. You almost have the feeling that you are sitting right next to Tolkien as he writes out the latest revision of the Lord of the Rings. Often he makes significant changes as he writes. For example, the scene in which Frodo and his friend encounter a Black Rider for the first time, began as an encounter with a white rider who turned out to be Gandalf. Tolkien wrote about a paragraph of dialog and then scratched out white and wrote black instead. He rewrote the entire encounter, reusing as many of the details that still fit the new storyline. Tolkien was very conservative and often kept using the same details and descriptions, even when he changed the plot.

There must have been few authors whose writing process a researcher can study in such detail. I am afraid that there will be no more. Today, a writer who wants to make changes in his manuscript can simply delete and rewrite with a few clicks on the keyboard. I don’t imagine there would be any writers so vain as to save every single version of everything they have written for posterity to read. Tolkien wasn’t thinking about preserving his thoughts. He simply didn’t throw any of his papers away.

I am normally a great technophile, but in this case technology has caused us to lose something.

 

Conservatives are Hobbits, Liberals are Orcs

August 15, 2011

There has been a certain amount of controversy generated by this article in the Wall Street Journal in which tea partiers are called Hobbits.

But what none of these critics have is an alternative strategy for achieving anything nearly as fiscally or politically beneficial as Mr. Boehner’s plan. The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . Barack Obama. The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.

John McCain took up this theme and read from the editorial while speaking on the Senate floor. I know both McCain and the Wall Street Journal meant to be derisive of Tea Party efforts to at least address our out of control spending before raising the debt ceiling, but considering that the Hobbits were the good guys who defeated Sauron, I’ll take the term as a compliment.

The Hobbits of Middle Earth are hard-working, quiet and contented people. They obey the laws and respect legitimate authority. They reverence the family and tradition. They do not go out of their way to seek adventures or trouble but they are as fierce as a dragon when cornered. They do not back down when threatened. They vigorously opposed Saruman’s redistribution schemes. In other words they are like conservatives, especially the Tea Party variety. The people who make up the Tea Parties are not the sort who spend their lives going out to protests. Like Hobbits, they would rather stay at home in the Shire. But, when the Dark Lord threatens all that is good in Middle Earth, they reluctantly go off to fight.

Hobbits on their way to a Tea Party

Orcs are dirty, crude and foul-mouthed. They are violent and seek out fights. They do not revere family or tradition but worship only raw power. This is why they willingly follow every evil creature who plagues Middle Earth. They do not like to work for themselves but prefer to take from other. They are liberals. Like Orcs, liberals are foul-mouthed and crude. (Tune into MSNBC if you don’t believe me.) They don’t care for tradition or the family or even the rule of law. And, like orcs, liberals blindly support every genocidal dictator who comes into power.

Liberals

So, there you have it. You can choose for yours, but I would rather be a Hobbit than an Orc, whatever John Grima McCain has to say.

 

Timothy Furnish at Pajamas Media takes all of this a lot further than I have with The Middle Earth Guide to Campaign 2012.

 


%d bloggers like this: