I've been meaning to re-read The Lord of the Rings for a while, after enough time had passed after the movies. I was thinking about listening to the audiobooks as a fresh way of coming to the text, but that didn't work so well with The Hobbit, so I'm taking a different route: my plan, at present, is to post thoughts on each chapter, to give myself incentive to really read closely. I don't know whether I'll actually stick with this, or if I'll be able to see the text fresh after all this time—for several years, I read this annually (literally; we'd go on vacation to a timeshare and I'd check the trilogy out of the school library), and quite frequently thereafter, and I have a very good memory for text. But, we'll see how it goes.
I'm reading paperbacks I bought in the UK on a term abroad, because I wanted something to read on the plane back, my fancy one-volume edition isn't very user-friendly (a mistaken purchase, really), and I really liked the covers by John Howe (the editions: one, two, three). Alas, I didn't get a matching Silmarillion.
Some notes on the prefatory material behind the cut, and a list of things I'm going to be looking for. Additions to the list are welcome.
The Foreword has the notes on the history of the book's writing, and the famous comments on allegory. The WWI comments have been noted frequently, of course, but it's the WWII comments that have always caught my attention. Granted, I was about seven the first time I read them, but even now, reading them makes me think I don't know nearly enough about the history of WWII:
The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion. If it had inspired or directed the development of the legend, then certainly the Ring would have been seized and used against Sauron; he would not have been annihilated but enslaved, and Barad-dur would not have been destroyed but occupied. Saruman, failing to get possession of the Ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long he would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth. In that conflict both sides would have held hobbits in hatred and contempt: they would not long have survived even as slaves.
[*] Every edition I've read has this, though of course it wasn't in the original.
This is in a historian's voice, which is very like the voice of the Foreword to my ear. The framing device is of a historical story, of our world.
I hadn't noticed until now that the discussion of textual sources gives away that all four hobbits live through the War of the Ring.
"It is said that Celeborn went to dwell there after the departure of Galadriel; but there is no record of the day when at last he sought the Grey Havens, and with him went the last living memory of the Elder Days in Middle-earth." I don't recall whether we know why Celeborn stayed when Galadriel left.
Things I'll Be Looking For
A preliminary list of themes that I want to keep an eye out for. Again, suggestions welcomed.
- history, telling of tales
- genetics, heredity, dwindling, race & species
- fate, significant personal actions
- machinery, environment, land
- ETA: religion in Middle-earth
Also I want to look at technique: POV, tone, distance, pacing, structure, foreshadowing.
Not at all a large project, hmm? My intent is to start with a close reading and then come back to this as a checklist if I need.
I have notes on chapter one, but I also have an amazing headache, so they will have to wait.