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Evie

Lord of the Rings

Spurred on by a friend elsewhere, I have decided to give Lord of the Rings another try - I began it many years ago, and abandoned it.  I have been persuaded to try again by someone who, in return, is going to try again with War and Peace, which defeated her, so I felt I couldn't refuse!

Anyway, I just wondered if anyone here wanted to read or re-read Lord of the Rings as a group read.  I might need a bit of moral support along the way!

Not to worry if no one wants to - if you don't, I might post at intermittent times on the Individual Novels thread, so that those who have read it can keep me motivated.

However - a group read would be more fun - any takers?
Ann

I would be happy to join you, Evie. I was thinking the other day that it is quite a while since I read it but I have read it several times so I'm not sure if I'd be the sort of companion reader that you're looking for. I have read many criticisms here about clunky prose etc but it seemed a magical book to me at the age of 11 or 12 and set me and my sister off on a lifetime of loving fantasy fiction. The thing that people forget today, perhaps, is how ground breaking it was as a book. There have been many really good and inventive writers of fantasy fiction since but Tolkein almost single handedly thought of writing fairy stories for adults with mythical undertones. In some ways, and I'm sure this would be heresy to many here, he reminds me of Homer.
However if you'd like me to group read it with you I would enjoy it very much.
Evie

Ann, that would be fab.  I expect you will read it a lot quicker than me, but I will try to keep up!  My sister read it at about 11 or 12, and it remains her favourite book, she has read it at least three times, and is not a re-reader as a rule.

I will have a hunt for my copy - but I have a couple of things on the go that I want to finish first, so I may not be ready to start for about a week.

Thanks, anyway, I look forward to reading it with you!
Marita

I’d be glad to join you as well, Evie. Like Ann I’ve read LOTR several times but not since the Big Read so it is just the right time for a re-read.

Marita
Evie

Fantastic, Marita - thanks!  Surely I can't now fail to get through it this time...
Ann

That would be great. I'm off to Japan for a couple of weeks on the 28th and I'm not sure if I can find you on Janet's computer but I'll try. We can start together, anyway, and then I can catch up with you both when I come back.
Evie I'm happy to go as slowly as you want to. Do you want to set the pace or how do you like to do these things? If you find it unreadable, as I know Himadri did, don't feel you have to persevere as I shall be happy reading with Marita and you can read our comments!

Marita it will be good to read it with someone who I know enjoys the book too.
TheRejectAmidHair

Ann wrote:
If you find it unreadable, as I know Himadri did...


Oh dear! – I can’t remember what exactly I had said about this book, but I hope it wasn’t too rude!

I’ll be following this group read with interest, by the way. Not that I’m planning to try this out again, but a book that has so large and so devoted a following must have something going for it, and I’d be interested to get some idea of what its appeal is, even though I may not necessarily be able to share it myself.
Ann

[quote="TheRejectAmidHair

Oh dear! – I can’t remember what exactly I had said about this book, but I hope it wasn’t too rude!

[/quote]

Don't worry, Himadri, I'm sure I have been far from complimentary about some of the books you like e.g. Dickens, so it is just a case of the boot being on the other foot.

As I said above I think part of the appeal was the sheer newness of the whole idea. I think Terry Pratchett said once that all fantasy writers owe a huge debt to Tolkein - but that didn't stop him sending the Lord of the Rings up mercilessly.
Green Jay

I read this on the beach when I was 17. It's one of those books that can stay there.  Smile    And even at the time I did skip lots of the "poetry".

My geeky son loves it. But he doesn't mind when I take the pee out of the names in it.

But good luck, one and all. I look forward to hearing what you think, Evie.
county_lady

Evie have you begun? I'm now looking for my earlier edition as I just picked up the illustrated LOTR and have decided it's too heavy to read in bed, in fact it weighs just under 2.5 kilos or 5lbs for oldies like me!
Evie

I am going to begin today, county lady!  Will take it out onto my balcony at lunchtime with my sandwich, and make a start.  I am looking forward to it really, I have been lazy (in terms of resisting anything approaching a challenge in reading terms) for too long, and need something to boost my engagement levels a bit.

The illustrated version sounds lovely, but may be dangerous in bed!  Though I find that making a bookrest with my knees means reading heavy books is actually easier in bed than elsewhere.  I suppose it can be rested on a table during the day!
Marita

How are we going to do this as a group read, Evie? Are we setting a date when to discuss a certain part or are we discussing it as we go?

Marita
Ann

I was thinking similar things, Marita. I think each book is divided into about 3 parts (this is from memory only) so it may be quite easy to decide how far we go each time. I will look at my copy later and see if there are any obvious dividing lines
Evie

Sorry for the delay in replying to this - I never seem to be able to manage to have my copy of the book and my computer in the same place!

I was wondering if we could reconvene in a week and see how we're getting on...and then maybe I will have a better idea of what I think is achievable.

But we don't have to make it too formal, as I am still concerned that I might read it more slowly than anyone else!  I don't mind if you get ahead - you can still comment on my comments, cheer me on from the sidelines, etc.

However, if you (since you know it much better than me) think there are convenient stopping points, we can make a firmer plan, if you would prefer that.
county_lady

Evie if you need some encouragement do post your thoughts as you go along. Don't worry as we won't mind disparaging comments on the poetry. Surprised
Evie

Thanks, county lady, ideally that's what I would like to do (post thoughts as I go along, I mean, not disparage the poetry!!).

I used to be a very organised person, always happy with deadlines, everything well prepared in advance, notes made for seminars, etc...these days I seem to live on the edge of chaos!  One slip and I may never find my way back...  So I apologise for not being more thought out about this, and I am happy if someone does want to suggest a more disciplined approach!  As you have all read it before, there is no worry about spoilers, and I am hoping you can just keep me on course - a bit like being roped together on a climbing expedition!

Of course, I may end up loving it, and not needing as much support as I think I might, you never know!  Stranger things, and all that.
Ann

Since you are new to this, Evie, I feel it is really important that we go at a pace that you can manage. You mustn't feel rushed.
How about if, initially, we go until the bit where Bilbo leaves. That is a short bite and you can decide if you want to go further. The story changes after that bit and becomes darker. If you are enjoying it we can go further but I'm keen not to overface you.
My tendancy is to make a decision if no one else will so I am happy to go along with anyone else's suggestion.
Evie

That sounds good, Ann, thanks.  Should I just report back when I get there, or should we set a date?

I am not entirely new to it - I got about half way through it once, before giving up in despair.

But now 20 pages in, and already losing track of which race is which...
Ann

Thnaks, Evie. I think you're buried in the Prologue and lot of it is fairly irrelevant. I think most of it was written for Tolkein's own attempt to give the story depth by describing the whole history of the world he invented. The only really vital bit so that you can understand the story is part 4 - of the finding of the ring. If you've read some of the book before I would skip a lot of the rest of the Prologue.

(I keep seeing Frankie Howard saying 'The Prologue' every time I write this. That dates me!)
Marita

Ann is right, Evie. It is only part 4 of the introduction that is important. I think Tolkien wrote the rest more for himself. He was giving the Hobbits a place in the history of the world he had created. The history (mythology) of Middle Earth already existed, most as unfinished stories and scattered notes, and hobbits did not appear in it. His son Christopher edited it all and had it published as The Silmarillion. I have just re-read this and it is definitely Hobbit-free.
If you have any questions, just ask. we’re here to help you along.

Marita
county_lady

Marita wrote:
Ann is right, Evie. It is only part 4 of the introduction that is important. I think Tolkien wrote the rest more for himself. He was giving the Hobbits a place in the history of the world he had created. The history (mythology) of Middle Earth already existed, most as unfinished stories and scattered notes, and hobbits did not appear in it. His son Christopher edited it all and had it published as The Silmarillion. I have just re-read this and it is definitely Hobbit-free.
If you have any questions, just ask. we’re here to help you along.

Marita


Agreed. Evie just 'go' with it. Cool
Evie

Thanks, girls!  Yes, I keep thinking of Frankie Howerd too, Ann!

I have to say, I am enjoying the style of writing - and I will read the prologue, I am not bogged down or anything, but will stop worrying about keeping on top of all the different bits and pieces - thanks for the info that this part isn't crucial.  And I know enough about the rings and everything to set me on the right path.  

As with Terry Pratchett, it was only when I went back to the first Discworld book and understood what it was all about that I began to enjoy those books, so I am keen to read this introduction - though if I do end up getting bogged down, I will know that it's OK to skip bits, and focus on the fourth part!
Evie

OK, now I've read the first page of the book proper, and the problems have started - I have had to put it aside for a bit.  In the first sentence, we hear that Bilbo is celebrating his 'eleventy-first' birthday - that is just too annoying for words.  Of course I remember all this, and the party, and everything, and it's all coming flooding back to me - the childishness of the storytelling, the falsely quaint things like 'eleventy-first' and second breakfasts and all that rubbish.  I could take The Hobbit, because it's so clearly a children's book, and when it was read to us at school when I was about 7, I loved it, and later read it again in adulthood and still enjoyed it for what it was.  But this seems neither one thing nor the other - childish subject matter, in terms of being about daft fantasy beings, and a narrative that fits children's books, and yet the subject matter becomes more complex.  I have very, very serious problems with the whole concept - I did find my original bookmark, which is still there at page 697, so I got that far, but I am struggling to get to page 2 this time!

BS Johnson and Vladimir Nabokov are calling...
Hector

Hi Evie

I'm certainly no fan of the book but there is a noticable shift in tone once you get through the first hald dozen chapters which makes it more bearable. Tolkien seems to reach a decision that the book is less of a sequel to The Hobbit in terms of style.

Fantasy (is that right?) is not my thing but I can appreciate, if not necessarily understand, why the books are loved by so many.

Kind regards

Hector
Evie

I will persevere past the tweeness.  Thanks, Hector.  I promise everyone I won't need help with every page - or if I do, I will just give up!

I find fantasy completely daft and unappealing, but if a story is well told, I can take to it, whatever it's about.  I do just need to get beyond all the Brandywine nonsense - even in the films, which I enjoyed, the fact that one of the hobbits was called Merry was a bit embarrassing.  I could cope with Pippin, as it's a good medieval name (wasn't Charlemagne's uncle or nephew or great grandson or someone called Pippin, or Pepin?).

I will keep putting one foot in front of the other...and hope to love it before too much longer.
Ann

I think Tolkein is trying to create a sort of nostalgic homeland in the beginning. It is much too good to be true but that is deliberate because in a way the lifestyle of The Shire is what the hobbits are fighting for, so it almost has to be too good to be true in the same way that soldiers fighting at the front were fighting for a Britain that was not true. Other people have noticed the parallels between LOTR and the 1st and 2nd World Wars which Tolkein lived through. It becomes especially poignant when the hobbits come back to the Shire at the end (which was not  shown in the films properly).
 He is also taking the children's story of The Hobbit and gradually introducing more serious and grown up themes so that the book becomes more and more adult as the story continues.
Evie

Thanks, Ann.  I am still rebelling against the very idea of hobbits, and simply can't take them seriously.  Dwarves, elves (very beautiful in the film, so that helped), and all the names of the characters - profoundly offputting! I find it all so embarrassing.  The themes may become more adult, but what is adult about believing in a world of hobbits and orcs and so on...?

I realise all the stuff about the wars, and that there is Christian allegory underpinning some of it, and that's what I mean about the discrepancy between these deep issues and the whole thing peopled with embarrassingly-named made-up creatures.  I don't get why this genre is so popular, and I know part of it is me resenting Tolkien for starting the whole thing off!

But I agreed to read it as part of a mutual challenge (the other person was getting on very badly with War and Peace, the last I heard!), and it's too early to admit defeat.

One thing I am enjoying is the quality of Tolkien's prose - just the elegance of his English - that makes up for a lot.

But I really am up against it here, which is why I need all this support!!  Though I will calm down and post less frequently.
Ann

I'm fine with all fantasy. It is a genre I enjoy very much; but although I love LOTR I find the perpetual poetry and songs really get on my nerves. I am not fond of poetry anyway, but the verse in this book seems to me really bad. I've just read the Tom Bombadil bit and although I think he is a wonderful and strange character, all the dreadful songs and capering about singing 'merry dol' and other silly things just makes me cringe. However I'm pretty good at just skipping over the verses etc.
Caro

I'm really interested to hear you talk of the elegance of Tolkein's prose, Evie.  I haven't read LOTR since I was perhaps 20, not sure, and I don't think I intend to read it again.  (The bits I liked in the films most were the shire bits at the beginning and end - all the adventures and battles washed over my head really, and I don't have a clue about any individual actions. But Viggo Mortensen looked so gorgeous I would have put up with a lot!)

I had not imagined that Tolkein wrote elegant prose though, and that might make me reconsider reading a bit of it to see what exactly you mean by that.  Seems to me the subject matter doesn't matter if the writing is good. (Not that I follow that through in my own reading - I don't find magic and fantasy interesting, and don't read science fiction, or much adventure, however well it's written.  Except for war books.)

Cheers, Caro.
Evie

It's just very clear and well-structured - a very pure sort of prose, but with warmth and energy - hard to describe.  Not a word out of place, fluid but well crafted.  I'm hoping this will help me get into the groove of the book as a whole, as I love good prose.
county_lady

Evie I'm glad you enjoy Tolkien's writing as I didn't feel any clumsiness apart from the verses.
By the way Merry and Pippin are still young hobbits and these are versions of their given names Meriadoc and Peregrin which children would probably shorten in play.
Caroline

Hey guys, I may catch up to  you if that's ok, I haven't read LOTR for  about 15 years, but I loved it then, and yesterday I was taken by my guy to the LOTR  film/concert at the Royal Albert Hall, it was the 2nd film (we saw the first installment last year). The London Philharmonic performed Howard Shore's film score with 2 choirs, adult and child,  The London Voices and  The London Oratory School Schola. It was magical to say the least, I had moments when I forgot the orchestra was there (although they were literally right in front of us!!!) , their playing was so perfect, then suddenly the choir would stand and the whole live experience would just hit me. Spent the entire concert with goosebumps! Loved the film of course but together with the orchestra it mas magnificent! Smile

Sorry to hijack the thread a little but I noticed your group read subject and thought it was a bit of a coincidence, especially as going to see the movie again has left me with a desire to read the book again!  Very Happy
Evie

Thanks, county lady - it's not that I need the reminder that they are young, but it's easy for me to get it all out of proportion, as I really, really find fantasy a very difficult genre to take seriously as adult literature.  The films are fun, but I see them as primarily aimed at children.  I love Star Wars, but don't think I would have done if I hadn't seen the first ones at the age of 14...and in fact I didn't like the later ones at all.

The writing may be enough to help me stick with it - time will tell!  I am just *longing* to read something contemporary, sharp, urban - Paul Auster or Don DeLillo or one of that ilk.

Caroline, would be great to have you reading it too!  Glad you had a good evening - my nephew took up the cello because some music teachers came to their junior school and played them bits of the Lord of the Rings music!  Sadly he has given up the cello, though.
Apple

I love Lord of the Rings and seeing this has made me want to re-read it again its one of my all time fav's and I remember the first time I read it being totally blown away by it. I might tag on to this book read as well!

Evie I found your comments on not being able to take the Fantasy genre seriously and thinking its more for children, quite interesting I actually had that impression for a long while until I had a dabble, there are some dire books out there but as long as you park your brain at the door and just emerse yourself and almost go along for the ride it can be a very enjoyable journey just as long as you don't take it too seriously or try to analyse it too much and enjoy it for what it is an entertaining piece of literature.
county_lady

Do join us Apple my reread is going quite well I've just left the travellers as they arrived at Bree.
I think I finally saw some point in the hobbits' stay with Tom Bombadil but still don't understand if he is meant as a personification of the land and why such a small part of it?
Evie

I am up to the point where the hobbits have just left Bag End and spent a night in the open...not getting on very fast!  

No intention of 'parking my brain at the door', I'm afraid, reading is about engaging my brain, for me, not putting it aside - but I understand about taking it for what it is.  That's what I'm struggling with!  I can't bear hobbits.  Tolkien clearly took it seriously, though, and I find the whole Inklings thing interesting, so I am persevering, and the prose itself and odd bits of humour are fine.
Apple

Hi County Lady and thanks! I have never understood the reason behind that bit either, I have read LOTR twice before and have found new bits the second time I read it and I am hoping  this time I will find some more understanding and new bits! If you get what I mean. Smile

Evie - When I say park your brain at the door, what I mean is just go with the flow and don't get hung up on the small bits which you don't like.  Fantasy is one genre which definately engages your brain especially your imagination, if you let it.
Gul Darr

Evie,
I've been away for a while and come back to find you reading Tolkien! Am I in a parallel universe? I'm impressed that you're persevering. Do you find that you have to believe in hobbits, dwarves and orcs and the rest of Middle Earth or whatever you read generally in order to engage with the characters and be drawn into the story? I'm glad you're enjoying some of Tolkien's prose anyway. Good luck!
Evie

I don't have to believe in them, though one thing Tolkien is of course good at is making his imaginary world convincing in its own terms.  But I have to find a way to care about what's happening, especially in a book of this length.  There is still a gap in my brain where the correlation between imaginary creatures and adult fiction has somehow fallen through.

I don't have a problem with science fiction - as long as there aren't too many aliens - and I prefer it without aliens.  But that at least deals with possibilities that are still relevant to adults, extensions of the adult mind, etc.  Fantasy seems, to me, to take children's literature and try to give it some meaning in an adult world - I can't yet make that leap.

Children imagine all sorts of things - I believed in fairies as a child, but I don't now.  I just don't get how this constitutes adult literature - I am having to read other things alongside it, otherwise I would go nuts (not that it would take much to do that!).  So progress will be slow.  I am trying to read it as a children's book, in the hope that that helps, but it bothers me that so many adults take it seriously as literature - 'bothers me' in the sense that I keep feeling I am not meant to treat it as a childrne's book.

Funnily enough, people have often said that the problem with it was the old-fashioned language, but the story was brilliant enough to make up for that; I, on the other hand, am finding the story embarrassing, but enjoying the language - perhaps I just like old-fashioned language!
county_lady

Evie I too love old-fashioned language and rarely think it a problem.

Fantasy can be far from childish but children do love all the heroes, horror, blood and gore found in Tolkien's hobbit world.  I find his plot absorbing being based on northern mythologies and just as cruel and unnatural as tales of the ancient Greek and Roman gods.
Evie

Yes, perhaps I just need to think of it as another bit of mythology - I don't have a problem with ancient myths.  This doesn't quite have the resonance of the Norse legends or the classical gods, but maybe that will come.  So far, LOTR is *very* childish, though (but I am only on p.80-something!).
Apple

Evie Wrote:
Quote:
Yes, perhaps I just need to think of it as another bit of mythology - I don't have a problem with ancient myths.  This doesn't quite have the resonance of the Norse legends or the classical gods, but maybe that will come.  So far, LOTR is *very* childish, though


The first few chapters have almost a whimsical feel to them I think but stick with it!!  Very Happy
Evie

As I say, Apple, I previously got to page 657, so I have stuck with it to a fairly decent extent in the past...we'll see if I get any further this time!  It's going to take me months, though.
Chibiabos83

Having been sure for my whole life that it wasn't my kind of thing, my mind is now beginning to turn. My tastes are quite broad, after all. Maybe I'll give it a go. But not yet Smile
Apple

Chibiabos - Oh please do it is a cracking read!
Marita

Evie wrote:
Yes, perhaps I just need to think of it as another bit of mythology - I don't have a problem with ancient myths.  This doesn't quite have the resonance of the Norse legends or the classical gods, but maybe that will come.

It is probably more like a combination of the Iliad and the Odyssey, with the journey coming before the war and less involvement by gods.

Evie wrote:
So far, LOTR is *very* childish, though (but I am only on p.80-something!).


Tolkien started writing LOTR as a sequel to The Hobbit and this is still very noticeable in the first few chapters. There is here and there still the voice of the adult telling a story to a child especially when he explains how Hobbits live and party. This grandfatherly voice should have been removed once the book was finished. Of course it very clearly shows us the character of Hobbits. They never hurry, they’re very much attached to their homeland, they prefer to hear stories of adventures rather than live them, they very much like their home comforts. Even the first part of the journey of Frodo and his friends is still very easygoing. They seem to be just out for a walk and are very reluctant to leave the Shire. It isn’t until they see the first Black Rider that they start to realise their might be danger ahead. Even then they still don’t hurry much, stopping regularly to have a bite to eat, even a rest. They stay with Tom Bombadil for an extra day because it’s raining. Once the hobbits leave Tom’s house the tone becomes much darker.
I think the point of the hobbits is their ordinariness. They are the most unlikely heroes but sometimes the most ordinary people are called upon to do great deeds.
county_lady wrote:
Do join us Apple my reread is going quite well I've just left the travellers as they arrived at Bree.
I think I finally saw some point in the hobbits' stay with Tom Bombadil but still don't understand if he is meant as a personification of the land and why such a small part of it?

I have left the Fellowship in the mines of Moria.
I’m nor sure what to think of Tom Bombadil. I thought he might be Time, Nature, Weathermaker but as you say county_lady; ‘why such a small part of the land?’ I wondered if he could be like The Green Man, a spirit of nature.

Marita
Apple

Marita Wrote:
Quote:
I think the point of the hobbits is their ordinariness. They are the most unlikely heroes but sometimes the most ordinary people are called upon to do great deeds.


Hello Marita! I think you have hit the nail on the head there and I totally agree with that.
Apple

How's it going Evie??
county_lady

Apple wrote:
How's it going Evie??


Yes how far is everyone?
I'm reading other things as well and will try to pace myself with Evie's progress.
Evie

I haven't read any of it for several days...I haven't read *anything* for several days!  This is what I was worried about, that the pace would be too slow for all of you.  Please don't worry about keeping to my pace, even if you are far ahead, you will still be helpful when I do post things!  I sometimes look at it, but can't face picking it up.  That's not just about the book, it's about the state of my life at the moment, and the effort it takes me to read at all.

I have lots of marking and seminar preparation to do, but once this weekend is over, I should have more time to concentrate on reading.  I used to read in the mornings, but have got out of that habit in the last week or so - need to get back into it!

Thanks for asking, girls, I do need an occasional prod!  An electric cattle prod might be more effective...   Wink
Evie

Well, the prod worked to an extent!  I just read a bit more - though they are still in the Shire!  But they have had their first encounter with the Black Riders and spent the night with Elves, and are now on their way to Bucklebury, trying to keep Pippin out of the pub that sells the best beer in Eastfarthing...riveting stuff...ahem.

It's still very twee, but I'm persevering.  Almost at page 100...haven't looked to see how many pages there are, but given that my old bookmark is still in p.657 and that seems less than two thirds of the way through, I am trying *not* to look at how many pages there are!  It could take me all year at this rate, as I will desperately need to read other things alongside it.  Plus it's too big to fit in my bag, so doesn't go with me when I'm out and about, which my book normally does, to read on buses, in cafes, on trains, etc.
Evie

I have got to the end of another chapter...they have reached the Bucklebury Ferry by way of Farmer Maggot, and Merry has joined them.  I told you progress would be slow...it's not exactly a book I look forward to picking up!
Evie

The hobbits are now with Tom Bombadil, and Frodo is having portentous dreams.  I am still very much enjoying the style of writing, though it's still too storyish for my taste - but as storytelling goes, it's excellent.  I find the poems, which county-lady referred to, in keeping with the mood of the rest, though I have skipped much of Tom Bombadil's verse (there is only so much merry dol, derry dol that I can cope with!).

It's slow, and not necessarily in a good way, and I am keen to get through this introductory bit - am looking forward to the arrival on the scene of Strider, who will give me a bit more interest (I really am not interested in hobbits!), and am not having any problem persevering, but I am not reading as much each day as I need to if I am going to get through it in a reasonable time.  Apologies to those reading it too, since I know my pace is painfully slow - but I did warn you!
county_lady

Evie there's no need to worry yet. For now I've put LOTR on one side as I'm reading Michael White's book on Isaac Newton and also calling me is Richard Holmes' Age of Wonder.
Evie

I am about to read Age of Wonder too - for work - I am teaching a summer school on the German painter Caspar David Friedrich, and want to read more broadly on Romanticism, and that book has been calling me for a while.  Only virtually up to now, but it is in the post to me as I write!

I am finding I have a bit more energy for reading at the moment, so am hopeful of some quicker progress with LOTR.  I like to support the library, so have the next in Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street books (The World According to Bertie) to read at bedtime, but am reading more during the day.  I always read first thing in the morning, so will see if I can get into a routine of LOTR in the mornings too.
Ann

I wrote a long piece about this last night and it disappeared. I was too tired to repeat myself (some jet lag is hanging around) so I'll write some of it again now. I'm rushing out in a minute so it won't be as long.
Firstly I got carried away and finished The Fellowship of the Ring. I will wait, now, until the rest of you catch up but since we have all read it before (Evie I know you haven't finished it but you've read a lot of it and seen the films) I don't think I shall inadvertantly make spoilers.
I was made to think more carefully about Tom Bombadil by your post, Evie. I always enjoyed that section and I think a large part of it is that something so sinister and frightening as the ring has no effect or hold over him. In Elrond's house they talk of him as 'oldest' but he is never properly explained. One of the appeals of the books is that Tolkein created such an enormous history and mythology of Middle Earth that he can make slight references to things which are never quite explained but fit perfectly into the story. There are obviously shades of ' the green man' and other ancient pagan beliefs here. I also like the idea he is complete master of all in his little kingdom - not ruler but able to override any creature or ghost within his ambit. He both can deal with Old Man Willow and the Barrow Wights and also understand and respect them. However I can never take all those Merry Dols!
Evie

Thanks, Ann - that's so frustrating when you lose a long post, isn't it?!  Sometimes the back button on my browser retrieves things.

You are taking it much more seriously than I think I ever can - I don't mean that as a criticism, just that I really don't think I will ever see it as more than a rather childish premise for a story, with all these made-up creatures.  The hobbits have just spent the night in the barrow, saved by Tom Bombadil, and the very mention of Barrow-wights made my heart sink.  I can't get into the suspense of the story because I am still embarrassed by all these silly creatures and their silly names.  (I mean the names of the species and races are silly, though their given names also make me cringe - Goldberry???).  I don't have a problem with who Tom Bombadil is, because he seems to be just as much part of the whole thing as anything/anyone else, he doesn't mystify me.

I can appreciate his skill in creating this whole imaginary world, and thinking it through in so much detail that it all hangs together historically, geographically, spiritually...but it's very much admiring a craft rather than being touched by the book in any way.  It is very external to me - I like a book that reaches inside me.
Caroline

I am reading this slowly too guys...reading it at the same time as Philip K Dick's biography....very strange combination!

Evie, it is quite slow at the beginning, I remember finding this at the first reading and being a bit impatient....skim read a little back then!  Wink

I do think fantasy can be difficult at times. It can seem trite and absurd, especially the books that end up being one of a series of 10 or some such silliness, by the time you've read the second one, every page appears a repetition of a previous one and all the characters seem ridiculous!  Confused
I have not read much of it for a long time, but do love to re-visit time to time. Good fantasy books, solidly written, have the aura of mythology around them, which makes them, for me, a great read. I do love mythology and Lord of the Rings has it in lorry loads!  Smile
Evie

Thanks, Caroline - great that there are a few people reading it!  It is still reading like a child's book, which is more offputting than the slowness - but they are now at the Prancing Pony, so Strider has entered the fray, and that should help - even if it's only because I will now have visual thoughts of Viggo Mortensen to accompany my efforts!   Wink

I have to confess that I have completely forgotten where the hobbits are actually aiming for at this point...  (See what you are up against - the concentration span of a goldfish!!)
Evie



Lovely!!
Apple

Very Happy Phoar!!! That pic was very much appreciated!!

Anyway, I think I have sort of missed the point of a group read,  Embarassed  I've just finished re reading it again, the trouble is I love this book so much that once I get into it I keep going until it’s done and the wonderful thing I find is I find something different and new each time I read it.  It is definitely a marmite book though, either love or hate it, I (obviously) love it and have read it 3 times now. There is just something about it which speaks to me.

I will agree that some passages are tiresome and irrelevant. But I think Tolkien was trying to create a myth and the background work he did was incredible, he developed languages and histories to link into in the stories. Unfortunately this often meant more elaboration than was necessary, but on the other hand  in a way added to the depth of the story. If you put all that to one side and just take the very basic jist of the story - good versus evil, the different races of people coming together to fight a common cause and common enemy. It could be argued that it is too slow and not clever enough for some people but I enjoyed it and the fact I find something new each time I re read it makes me think the words fitted the story which Tolkien created.
Evie

Apple, it's fine, it's a very informal group read!  I just felt the need to see if anyone was available to keep me motivated, and people are doing just that.  So the odd comment from time to time from those who have read it is as valuable as people actually reading it with me - few are going to cope with my snail's pace, so I am not expecting anyone to keep pace with me!  But sometimes I may need to be pulled along a bit.

Viggo is *lovely*, isn't he?!
Ann

I'm sure you've remembered, now, but they're heading for Rivendell which is a great strongholding of the elves.
Another thing which makes this book so good, I feel, is that even the heroes are not superhuman in any way. I thought the films were very beautifully filmed but I felt they made the main characters a bit too heroic to be true. Now Strider is with them he does help but he makes mistakes too. Not just in this  bit, but later too, he insists on going  up to a high viewpoint to spy out the land and it is definitely not a good idea on either occasion.
I find the gradual taking over of Frodo by The Ring rather fascinating too as one keeps wondering if he can hold out against its temptations (even when I know what happens)
Apple I quite agree; I too can get totally caught up in the story even though I've probably read it more than twenty times over the years.
Marita

I have just started the last part of The Lord of the Rings (The Return of the King).
Like Ann and Apple I get caught up in the story.

Apple wrote:
But I think Tolkien was trying to create a myth and the background work he did was incredible, he developed languages and histories to link into in the stories.


Actually it is TLOTR that linked to the languages and histories. Tolkien invented a language as a hobby but a language needs people to talk it or it is dead. So Tolkien created his Elves and Men, their country and a whole mythology from the first creation of the world to the war that changed this world completely. These stories were later published as The Silmarillion, a book I like as well as if not more than TLOTR.

Evie wrote:
Viggo is *lovely*, isn't he?!


When I first saw he was chosen to play Aragorn I wasn’t too sure he was the right choice – he didn’t look at all like the Aragorn I had imagined – but once I saw him in the film he was just right. Now I can’t imagine another Aragorn.

Marita
Apple

Ann Wrote:
Quote:
I find the gradual taking over of Frodo by The Ring rather fascinating too as one keeps wondering if he can hold out against its temptations (even when I know what happens)
Apple I quite agree; I too can get totally caught up in the story even though I've probably read it more than twenty times over the years.
I am a novice who has only read it three times now, but as someone who has read it considerably more - do you find that you always find something different and new in the story or a new perspective or thought which hadn't occured to you before each time you re read it?

I remember watching  or reading a interview with Christopher Lee which was shown/published (I can't remember now whether it was shown or published in a magazine or exactly where I saw it to be honest)  around the time the first film came out and at that point I had only read it the once and he said he tried to re-read it at least once a year and he said something simular that he always found something different and new in it each time he read it, I was quite cynical about it thinking it was just said to promote the film but having since re-read it twice more I have found it to be absolutely true.
Ann

Apple, I'm not sure if I find something new in it  each time but it is more like going for a favourite walk and enjoying a view one has enjoyed before all over again because it gives one a wonderful feeling.
I think it might be also that I can usually find a different way of looking at it each time because it is a complicated plot with a wide mixture of emotions.
Has anyone been watching the films which have been on again the last two weekends? I think we are due for The Return of the King this weekend. As I know the books so well I get cross at the differences but they are very well done.
Evie

I keep picturing bits from the films as I am reading - they did do many of the scenes very well.

I am now at the end of the first book of The Fellowship of the Ring - Frodo has been injured by the Black Riders and Glorfindel is accompanying them to Elrond's house.  I loved the bits in Rivendell in the film, and the Elves generally - not a great Orlando Bloom fan as a rule, but he was stunning as Legolas, particularly when he ran, swift-footed like the wind!

But I can't believe anyone would read this 20 times!!  It's still pretty tedious, to me.  And I'm still struggling with being embarrassed by the names - even Frodo is an embarrassing name.
Ann

I rarely read names - I just recognise them at a glance and know who is being talked about without bothering to say them in my head.
Embarassed I'm afraid I am a sad person with all that rereading.
Evie

No, re-reading is a very, very good thing!  And if this is a favourite book, then obviously you are going to read it several times.  But if I tried to read this 20 times, I doubt if I'd ever manage to read anything else, it's going to take me months to finish it!  Though I read a whole chapter today, and the next chapter is the Council of Elrond.  

I can't bear all the sickly stuff about Arwen, and at least the films help with things like that, because Liv Tyler wasn't sickly (though she and Galadriel were a bit soft-focus).  Tolkien's attitude to women so far is ridiculous - one harridan, one sickly sweet super-heroine, and that's it.

I can't imagine reading without registering names, though - names are so important.
Evie

I have now read well over 300 pages; the travellers are in the Mines of Moria.  I have got to the stage where I no longer feel like giving up and reading something more to my taste.

I am still enjoying Tolkien's narrative style very much, though the dialogue is perhaps the archaic bit that various people have mentioned - certainly the dialogue is a bit irritating.  As is Gandalf - I keep wanting to push him off a ledge or whack him with his staff, he is so pompous.

I said that many of the names were a distraction to me too - but I will say that the names of the places are less cringeworthy.  Isengard, Rohan, Moria, even the more prosaic Mount Doom, and others, all have a genuine aura of seriousness and mythological resonance to them, unlike the names of many  if not most - of the characters.

It still feels interminably slow, and I am waiting for this story to start that has gripped so many of you - and 330 pages seems a long time to wait.  Perhaps I am already in the midst of it - if so, it is doing nothing for me - I have to say that I am not getting anything out of reading it yet.  I am not hating it or anything, but it's quite dull.  And a bit silly...

But another 100 pages and I will have finished the first book.  Thank you all for your patience!  And it really does make a difference knowing there is a group of you either re-reading it or joining me in spirit on this journey!  I have to read other things at the same time, which slows me a little, although I wouldn't be reading this at bedtime or first thing in the morning, which are my key reading times, if it was the only thing I was reading - it's just not what I need at those times.  But I am happy to be persevering, and am hoping that by the end, there will have been some rewards.
Ann

I am impressed, Evie, as it is hard to plough through something that you are getting very little from. You are on to the best bit of The Fellowship of the Ring now, in my opinion, as you are going to meet some interesting characters. Galadriel is more, in the book, than she is in the film. I still find The Mines of Moria have quite an eerie atmosphere, though, which you obviously don't! Didn't you feel sad when Bill couldn't face them and ran off?
I will leave it a couple of days and then join you for The Two Towers. I'm still struggling through The Shadow of the Wind and my sister has bought me The Sister Knot about the twisted, good/bad, relationship between sisters which I must read too. I have about 3 library books to finish too - so many books, so little time!
(That is a total lie as I have loads of time but waste it doing the garden,  shopping, playing silly computer games and things like that)
county_lady

Evie like Ann I am very impressed that you are persevering with LOTR.
To be honest the names Tolkien uses are neither twee or fancifull to those of us who are regular fantasy readers. Embarassed

Ann I too waste far too much time 'faffing about', as my mother called it!
Evie

Thanks, girls!  I just don't 'get' the fantasy genre, I think that's part of the problem - I admire the imagination involved in something like this, but don't really see the point.  I mentioned that I like Lewis's SF trilogy on another thread, and was wondering why I like that better than this - I think it's because it is rooted in human life in the world I know and live in, and the fantasy stuff happens on another planet, and is part of a scientific adventure.  This is somehow a world that tries to combine human life with a made-up world, in the same sphere, and I can't quite work out where I am, it has humans in it, but then all this other stuff.

Even with the place names, much as I love some of them (I missed Mordor out of my list - Terry Wogan used to joke about the fact that some extras from Taggart seemed to have wandered into the LOTR films, as they pronounced the Rs in a very deliberate way, so that does make me laugh, but I still like the name!), he suddenly throws in silly names like the Brandywine river - icky stuff amid some genuinely well-thought-out names.

I am not getting any atmosphere in the Mines of Moria, Ann - and am afraid I felt absolutely nothing for Bill...he's a horse!  I was irritated by Sam crying.

I am determined to finish it, and am no longer finding it a chore, but it's not a book that calls out to me to pick it up - which is good really, as I work from home and have enough distractions!  But I need to read other things too, as it's not enough to satisfy my literary urges (such as they are - I don't have many urges of any kind these days, sadly!).
Freyda

Evie, you've shown real "reading stamina" and I'm amazed at your patience, since it's clearly not the book for you.   Surprised

I found Merry and Pippin annoying names and characters, even more so in the film where one of them was Irish or Scottish (can't remember), which made no sense at all. Rather like the Scottish milkman in 'The Archers', but that's another topic entirely...

But I did feel sorry for the poor pony.
Marita

I have finished LOTR and very much enjoyed the re-read. Thank you, Evie, for giving me the excuse to read it again.

Marita
Evie

I'm glad you enjoyed the re-read, Marita!

I have finished Fellowship of the Ring - in fact I finished it nearly two weeks ago, but then went away for a week to teach on an intensive residential school, so didn't take it with me as I had lots of other heavy books to take, and have yet to settle back into it this week - but I will.
Apple

I'll second what Marita said - I love an excuse to re-read a book I love!

You have  finished it Evie! I have to admire your perseverance, when you clearly say that it isn't a genre you are comfortable with.  I found interesting what you said that you no longer find it a chore to read, could it be its winning you round just a little bit!?  Wink  Seriously, its nice when you read a book that you can appreciate it even if its not the best book you have ever read and its a lesson to persevere with a book, as I have all too often given up and chucked a book to the side if its not grabbed me.  Very Happy
Ann

I've begun The Two Towers, now, and am very much enjoying the Ents whom, I feel, were a wonderful invention (Tolkein probably based them on some obscure Saxon myth). I'm trying to go quite slowly so that I can discuss it with you, Evie, and anyone else on this thread. I do think Eowyn's feelings for Aragorn were quite delicately described although Tolkein has been critised for his inability to write about women. I found Gandalf's confrontation with Theodred moving all over again. Perhaps, as I decline into old age, I want a wizard to arrive and challenge me into a new lease of life.
Apple

I am now realising and taking it you have the three books separate, I have a giant breeze block of a book where all three books are altogther in one. Well good luck with the next instalment!  Very Happy
Ann

I used to have a giant block of a book too, apple, and it fell to pieces. I then bought the three separate volumes and now they are falling to pieces.  Crying or Very sad
Marita

I have the same problem with my LOTR breezeblock and my copy of The Silmarillion is even worse. I think fans like us should invest in hardbacks. They might last longer.

Marita
Evie

I also have a one-volume doorstop - which is why I don't take it with me when I am travelling.  Otherwise I might be reading it a bit more quickly!  I am afraid I am still only on the Riders of Rohan chapter, early in The Two Towers.  Not much time for reading non-work-related stuff at the moment, and not something I want to read as bedtime reading, so I am still making slow progress.  It's the kind of book I have to make myself read, rather than looking forward to reading it, so it is having to compete with things I am more interested in!

I don't hate it or anything, just can't engage with it - it is still just a story to me, and the archaic dialogue, as people had warned me, is irritating.
Marita

Evie wrote:
and the archaic dialogue, as people had warned me, is irritating.


Evie, I can see that can make it annoying to read. Doesn’t this reading of and on interrupt the flow of the story for you?

Personally I don’t mind the archaic dialogue. On the contrary, for me a more modern dialogue would not be right. The dialogue is part of the feeling of reading an ancient manuscript found in a dusty corner of a library. A piece of forgotten history.

Marita
Evie

It doesn't disrupt the flow - I have yet to find a flow, though!  It's a very boring story so far, and had I not seen the films, even Aragorn would be hard to care about.  Though I am still well before the part I read up to before, albeit several years ago, and have seen the films, so perhaps the story is partly just familiar and a bit flat as a result.  But where, for example, I found the death of Boromir very moving in the film, I found it completely unengaging in the book.

It certainly doesn't feel like a long-lost manuscript either.  I do still like the narrative style - I think he writes wonderful storytelling prose when he isn't prattling on about ancient legends (I tend to skip the songs and the stories that Gandalf and the others tell about the history of their own adventures or of their lands - or at least skim-read the latter - too tedious!).

It still strikes me very much as a children's book - I can't see how it has adult content at all (I don't mean that in terms of sex and violence, of course! but in terms of themes that are challenging enough for adults to engage with).
Green Jay

Evie wrote:
(I tend to skip the songs and the stories that Gandalf and the others tell about the history of their own adventures or of their lands - or at least skim-read the latter - too tedious!).



That's just what I did too, even as an 18 year old reader.
Lizzy Siddal

Maybe I'm hallucinating but is this an ent?

Ann

I couldn't see it for a moment, Lizzie, but now I think you're right! Even, possibly, one of the entwives that had been missing for so long. flower
Lizzy Siddal

So glad I'm not delusional!  Laughing

I thought you'd be able to click on the photo to make it bigger but no.   There's a larger version here.
Evie

I have now read the chapter about the Riders of Rohan - a very poor episode, I thought, quite badly written - and Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas have lost their horses.  It's hard to care...
county_lady

Evie I'm now on the journey to Isengard so further than you. How is your friend coping with War and Peace and will you manage to encourage each other to the bitter end?
Evie

The last I heard she had given up - but she is another 'virtual' friend (ie an online one), and I need to check up - am feeling virtuous for ploughing on, though!  My speed should pick up a bit now - I was working away from home last week, and didn't take it with me, but have picked it up again now.
Evie

Uruk-Hai dealt with (for now) over lunch - a slightly better chapter than the previous one.  Treebeard next, will have to get some work done first though!
priscilla-of-padua

Evie, I do so admire your gritty tenacity in reading TLOTR  which I am following with interest- it's like like someone suffering a hair shirt. This may have been asked of you before earlier, would it have made any differenc if you had not seen the film?

Regards, P.

I am reading history at the moment and probably of little interest to the board members, I suspect, so have not contributed for an age.
Evie

Priscilla, great to see you - do tell us about the history you're reading, lots of us are interested in history, and there's not enough non-fiction on the board for some posters, I am sure.

I had read about 650 pages of LOTR before, and I am sure knowing it a bit has helped - but yes, I have to say that seeing the films has made this re-read much easier.  However, what's really keeping me going is that I enjoy the challenge!

But I wouldn't keep going if I thought it was rubbish - it isn't.  Tolkien is a good storyteller (for the most part - some chapters read as though he is making it up as he goes along, but they are few), and his narrative style is very enjoyable; on the other hand, most of the dialogue is dire, and the characterisation is rudimentary, and that's the main reason it's not my kind of book - too much story, not enough characterisation.  The other reason is all those f***ing elves, to paraphrase one of Tolkien's friends!

I am still trying to work out why people love it so much - Marita's comment about it being like a found ancient document is interesting (though I don't see it myself at all), but its popularity baffles me.  I suppose I still can't get my head around why adults find fantasy novels rewarding!  Would love to know more about why it's one of the most popular books in the English-speaking world.
priscilla-of-padua

My opinion for what it's worth.

I first read 'Rings'a few months after it's release and no hype. I heard of it from older students - one of whom had Tolkien for his tutor at Oxford. They were not allowed to discuss the trilogy with him.

My mother wondered why I left my share of the chores with my nose in a book and to her dismay I described it then as a sort of fairy tale for adults - somewhat like  cowboy movies at the time fulfilled a similar lower key role in the good/evil struggle. This met with  a look of scorn and I said no more.

Doomed at the time to a heavy diet of  English Lit  - Silas Marner being  the simplest, I found the trilogy  an escape into a familiar world with  opportunity to relive the childish thrills of Blyton tales without guilt.

It was some time before the trilogy became widely read. 'The Hobbit' was considered a good book for children, though nothing startling.

I later enjoyed seeing how Tolkein had to  manipulate his tale around the facts given in  The Hobbit. I also find all the heavy thoughts re the trilogy and correlation with world war 2, over the top. The man had had fun by indulging himself in  a private fanatasy related to his special subject as revealed in those huge notes at the end of the third book that  give an alternate mythology that  bolsters and enriches his tale...... somewhat like  a quirky illuminated medieval manuscript often fills  the gaps.
The songs and poems and geneaolgy are all part of the grand embroidery - and I bet  he did all this detailed elaboration and  got out of the washing up for years much as I did reading it. TLOTR is good escapist stuff with enough action to  keep one reading on  without having the intellectual baggage of characterisation or depth of emotion. beyond the, 'OOOhh deaaar, how will they get out of that one? Look behind youuuuuu!'

Back to the wall, I  already sense the stones of outrage being lifted to hurl my way. I should stop there.  

Regards, P.
county_lady

Priscilla I agree with you so no stones or brickbats from me.
A librarian friend lent me  The Fellowship of the Ring in the mid 1960s saying "You must read this". I knew nothing of LOTR or J R R Tolkien but was soon hooked and eager to read the next two books. I didn't read The Hobbit until many years later with my middle son and it didn't 'grab' me in the same manner.
Evie

No stones of outrage from me either!  Thanks for your comments, Priscilla.

I remember having The Hobbit read to us at school when I was 7 or 8, and I loved it.  My sister, and various of my friends a few years later (last year of junior school, so 11ish), read LOTR and raved about it, and my sister has read it several times and it's still probably her favourite book.  

It just doesn't do anything for me - but I really admire Tolkien for writing the book he wanted to write, taking his love of myths and having some fun with it and growing this whole world in his imagination; I just can't join him there.  It seems twee and frankly quite boring to me, but I know it is in part that I will simply never be a fan of fantasy novels.  I still can't see any adult content in LOTR yet - I know all about the themes and the possible allegories and the background to its writing, but it just doesn't seem to have any substance, any reason to make it such a well-loved book.  I am afraid I just skip all the poems and songs - ridiculous that everyone bursts into song at the slightest opportunity - perhaps Peter Jackson should have made it into a musical!

I plan to read some of the Norse sagas afterwards, to see if there is something inherent in the root material that doesn't appeal to me, or whether it's the modern reinterpretation that leaves me cold.

In the meantime, Aragorn and co have met up with Gandalf again, and Merry and Pippin are with the Ents - I do quite like the Ents, partly because I love trees so much!  I am about 100 pages from where I gave up before, and I do expect to finish it this time.
Ann

I really enjoyed reading about how you all began with Tolkein. I like that he refused to talk about it to his students! I was read parts of L of the R by the very superior and erudite head of the English Department at secondary school. She had to take us new pupils ( present year 7s but we were called Upper Thirds then) for a  lesson and probably couldn't think how to deal with such young children! I was at first very sneery about being read a fairy tale at the great age of 12 but I soon became gripped and couldn't put it down. I would sneak into the library at breaks and lunch times to try and finish it off. I infected my sister and we both have ended up loving fantasy. In fact she is bravely trying to write a science fiction book at the moment!
I had always enjoyed myths and tales of the Gods so perhaps that is why it resonated with me. Tolkein was the founder of the genre which makes the books special but there are now fantasy writers I like even better. However I am getting a great deal of pleasure from this revisit.
priscilla-of-padua

interesting, Ann. I have introduced it to many 12 year olds - some were avid readers having a problem with the transition to more adult books. The trilogy is for many a compulsive 'and then..' sort of book as the heroes labour on.

One must not lose sight of Tolkein's day job. Knee deep in ancient sagas, chronicles, epic heroic poetry and simila, little wonder he decide to create a mythology of an honorable quest, splendid sword,  wizards, nasties and ghouls. I really do not think it iwas consciously written with metaphors of the time in mind, war was all about all of us.  
Though very young at the time yet well aware of the war, I was into Tufty the Tree elf and well versed in current cheering songs; war time was not as universally dark as might be thought though I slept in a cellar, watched factories go up and counted down the doodlebugs to see if we would survive (if we got to 10 we had.)

I agree with Evie the tweeness cloyed - even when I was young I hated the Merry/ Pippen/ hairy feet concept ( he was tied to that after writing the Hobbit).  My enduring memory and affection remains with the Ents - which were also admirably portrayed in the film also.
I ramble  again.  Regards, P
Ann

Very Happy I didn't mind the Hobbits in the book, Priscilla, but found them immensly twee in the film. This was especially true for Merry and Pippen whom the producer seem to regard as light relief and didn't allow them any seriousness at all. I remember being very distressed when I first read about how lonely they felt when they became separated and how inadequate they felt as they tried to play a proper part in the battles and discussions. The film just made them cheeky chappies - yuck.

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