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incidents and accidents, hints and allegations

Lord of the Rings, LotR (The One Ring)
Kate kate_nepveu
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LotR re-read: belated biases

It occurs to me that I probably should have, at the start of the re-read, talked about my biases and preferences when it comes to The Lord of the Rings, just so everyone knows where I'm coming from.

The last time I specifically remember reading LotR is the end of 1997, when I acquired my British paperbacks. It's possible I read it between then and the summer 2001, when I started the booklog, but I don't remember it. I first read it sometime in elementary school; I think I started the annual re-read around third or fourth grade.

I've already said my favorite (The Two Towers, book 1) and least-favorite (Ioreth) parts of the book. This dates from when I was very young and much more interested in the bright heroics of the epic sections; I don't know whether it'll stay that way now. Ioreth is just jarring.

I think my favorite character is Faramir, in which one may well again spot the workings of a pre-adolescent romantic mind. It doesn't usually occur to me to pick favorite characters these days, so I don't know whether I'll bother to revisit this one.

Problem characters are, somewhat predictably, Eowyn and Sam. With Eowyn, every time I have to re-construct the chain of reasoning that, last time, seemed to make it all make sense; it just never seems to stick. With Sam, it's less comprehending his motives than having issues with the way the text treats him, as the posts to date have probably made clear. For both, I do my best to recognize the context that I bring to the text, and separate out "I don't like/agree with this" from "I don't think this was skillfully portrayed."

I have no deep feelings regarding Tom Bombadil, the other polarizing character.

Other things about the way I've read the text:

  • I skim the poetry. I'm not good at poetry anyway, and reading it takes enough effort that I usually leave it in favor of better, or at least more familiar, things. I will make the effort this time, as the goal is to re-read every word.
  • I always dread the journey through Mordor, and am always surprised when it's not as bad as I remember.
  • Of course I read the Appendices, though I skip the language stuff (and will keep skipping it, thanks). I mean, it's what else happens! (I am the kind of person who likes long wrap-everything-up endings. I can't help it.)

That's what comes to mind now.

[Edit because it keeps coming up: why The Silmarillion makes me cranky.]

[ more LotR re-read posts ]

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Do you also skip the bits of the appendices that talk about the various calendars?

I've never constructed a better bit of reasoning for Eowyn than "she was fighting against a rigid structure, and after the war and her illness, lacked the strength to do so anymore," which is a rationalization of "and once they'd killed the Ringwraith and Eomer was going to be king, Tolkien wanted her to fit his [or his audience's] idea of what princesses do."

From another angle, Eowyn marrying Faramir fits into Tolkien's theme of war not being the most important thing--building a good life is. Faramir is hardly a booby prize.

On the other hand, it would have been more satisfying if Eomer had died in battle and Eowyn had inherited, with Faramir as her consort.

Part of what makes the book not work is that Arwen isn't characterized. On the other hand, if she had been characterized and Aragorn had been interested in Eowyn, the end of the book would have been an untidy love story with lots of emotional shifts, and afaik, Tolkien wasn't interested in writing that sort of thing.

How come it would have been a happy, satisfying ending for Eowyn to marry up, but it doesn't work for Aragorn to marry up?

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(no subject) - nancylebov, 2006-06-13 01:30 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Alternate LOTR - anna_wing, 2006-06-16 05:27 am (UTC)(Expand)
Re: Alternate LOTR - kate_nepveu, 2006-06-16 11:19 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2006-06-13 04:33 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kalimac, 2006-06-13 05:40 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2006-06-13 05:44 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kalimac, 2006-06-13 01:47 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2006-06-13 04:35 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - (Anonymous), 2006-06-14 09:13 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kalimac, 2006-06-14 10:31 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2006-06-13 04:30 pm (UTC)(Expand)
I'd forgotten about those--didn't feel like getting up last night (DSL was out until this morning) and getting the book from upstairs. Yes, I skip the calendars too.

My reaction to the the poetry quality is complicated. It changes a lot. The simple hobbity verses are, well, simple, but mostly fun. Some of them are weak in the sense that they are forgettable---the bath song comes to mind. Some of them have imagery and stuff hidden in them like a bit of a precious stone hiding under a leaf. Bilbo's song about things he has and has not seen, for instance. Among the more complex ones, linguistically or rhytmically, a couple are just gorgeous---Tinuviel's Ballad, Earendil, "Where is the horse and the rider?"...

Possibly my favourite is Strider's Riddle, but that's one of the technically plain ones.

I'll be looking forward to discussing the poetry, too, is what I'm trying to say I guess.

Tangentially, I am happy to find someone else who isn't bothered with or particularly impressed by Bombadil.

One of the ways I'm not good at poetry is evaluating its quality; I can tell stuff I like, but (for instance) most end-rhymed poetry sounds sing-songy and annoying to me, and I can't hear beats to save my life. So it'll be good to have someone with opinions on this reading along.

(no subject) - kalimac, 2006-06-13 05:35 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2006-06-13 05:45 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kalimac, 2006-06-13 06:05 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - anna_wing, 2006-06-16 05:30 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - helen_keeble, 2006-06-13 07:41 pm (UTC)(Expand)
My favorite part of the book is also TTT, book I, and I also don't have much of an opinion on Tom Bombadil. I remember being mildly surprised when I discovered that many people did!

By the way, though I haven't been commenting until now for lack of anything to say, I have really enjoyed reading these posts. I did annual rereads of LOTR for nearly a decade. I'm not sure why I stopped; perhaps I just needed a break from Tolkien after all the movie buzz.

I deliberately did not re-read during the movies because I was afraid I'd get the movies too intertwined with the books in my head. I didn't succeed in seeing the movies as their own thing (see, my dislike for the movie _Two Towers_), but the books seem to have survived just fine as their own thing.

I've already mentioned that I mostly don't get drawn in by Tolkien's poetry, but I echo Helen's comment upthread--the first time I heard/saw Bernard Hill's Theoden reciting "Where is the horse and the rider?" in a trailer, it was *chills*, baby. I also like the Strider riddle, and one of my favorites that I actually do like is the little song Sam sings while perched on the steps of the tower of Cirith Ungol, sunk in despair.

I'm with you on Faramir, who is, if not my favorite, then certainly a favorite, although not, I'm fairly sure, out of any residual romantic longing--maybe residual hero-worship, as he seems to me the ideal in a number of ways.

I see why Eowyn is such a problemmatic character for many, but its never bothered me as much. Sam, on the other hand, has become more problemmatic for me over the years. Tom Bombadil *is* my least favorite character, hands down. Jackson and crew get many brownie points for chopping him, although not quite enough to make up for their gratuitous errors. But this isn't about the movies, so.

For me, it's always the pre-Mordor journeying, i.e. the Dead Marshes, that I dread, and that don't seem as bad when I actually get there, rather than the trek across Mordor itself.


I meant romantic partly in a longing sense and partly in a hero-worship sense, which appears not to have come through very well.


I tend to like the poetry, most of the time (particularly the Earendil song and Boromir's funeral songs), though less so the inconsequential hobbit verse like Pippin's bath song. (I can see why he didn't particularly feel like singing in front of Denethor later...)

When I was younger, I liked Book III and Book V best, but Book IV has grown on me over the years; there's something ineluctably necessary about Frodo's lone and falling trip through the wilderness, and the heroism (and jackassery) of Sam. It doesn't have as much of the glory of Helm's Deep or the Pelennor Fields, and yet without that dark shadow somehow the sunlight on the Entwood or the wind from the sea would be less bright.

As far as Eowyn goes, I think Tolkien's view is (as usual) considerably more subtle than it is often made to be. One thing to keep in mind is that Eowyn achieves, by the standards of her own people, more than any of the other commanders that day. She is the last loyal retainer to stand at her lord's side when all the rest have fled; she is the one who avenges Theoden the King; it is she who slays with her own sword the general of the opposing host -- what more could one of the Rohirrim require to achieve immortality in song?

Aragorn is right that someone needs to stay behind to hold the fort (as he himself arranges for the defense of Minas Tirith after his departure); he is also as careful as he can be to divert Eowyn's crush on him without scorning her; and yet one feels somehow that his approach and Theoden's leave Eowyn trammeled somehow: the bright offer of service should not be refused (as indeed we see with Gandalf and Elrond accepting Pippin and Merry into the Fellowship of the Ring, when prudence would have said to leave them behind or send them back).

Tony Zbaraschuk

Curiously enough, my favorite characters are Sam, Eowyn, and Faramir, more or less in that order. I like the Faramir and Eowyn ending up together because, even though the way it happens is not the most convincing thing in the world, they do seem to suit each other in that they're both misfits and rebels-- Eowyn wanted to fight instead of staying at home like a proper woman, and Faramir was thoughtful and bookish instead of being a proper man's man like his brother-- and they both ended up doing a lot better as the people they were than the people they were supposed to be. That is, Eowyn slew the Nazgul that none of the men could kill, and Faramir resisted the temptation that his brother could not.

I like Sam because even though I agree with Le Guin about the Hobbit Socialist Party, I love that he has no special skills and isn't the chosen one, and makes it all the way to Mordor anyway, on sheer guts, persistance, and because he won't leave Frodo, who he loves.

I do like the result of Faramir and Eowyn being together, even if I tend to have doubts about the way they get together.

I agree about Sam. And I've always been pleased that Tolkien rewarded him in a major way in the Appendices - happy husband and father, founder of a major family, seven times Mayor of the Shire, friend and counsellor of Kings, and a sailor over Sea at the end.

It is, I think, a natural consequence of Tolkien's view of "Faerie", that it was a place where lords are lords because they deserved to be, and therefore, conversely, someone whose qualities merited that status should also eventually achieve it.

(no subject) - kalimac, 2006-06-14 10:47 am (UTC)(Expand)
True enough, but Frodo's being chosen* doesn't mean he has to rely on guts and persistence any less than Sam does. Except insofar that, at the end, he's mostly leaning on Sam's.

What Sam has to overcome more than Frodo is sheer ignorance about what he's doing.

(*"That may be a comforting thought," says Gandalf about Frodo's "chosen" status. No it isn't, Frodo replies.)

(no subject) - anna_wing, 2006-06-16 05:34 am (UTC)(Expand)
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