Sunday, January 8, 2012

LOTR again - over and out

This morning I completed my reread of J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece, Lord of the Rings, which some have called the "greatest literary work of the 20th century."

As I've stated elsewhere, this is my fortieth/fiftieth/sixtieth or more reading of these three books.  I really don't know, I've lost count and there really is no purpose in counting.  I read it every year on purpose and because I want to.  As is my wont after completing a book or a series, I looked up certain aspects of these three not so little books.  My purpose, this time, was to research what people had to say about the ending of the series...and I really was left wanting.   Little has been written at all--at least not that I could find.

Most authors end a book on a note that will push their readers to read more of that author.  Even blog writers do that.  Tolkien didn't.  He had no intention of writing a sequel to the series and was relieved when it was done.  His time was better spent writing about the "back story" as far as he was concerned.  Professionally, Tolkien was consumed by Germanic, Nordic and Celtic mythologies.  His Middle Earth was a contemporary mythology with a firm foundation in those he studied.  Writing his "back story" filled in the mythology from creation to the day Frodo sailed away from Middle Earth.  Indeed, regarding a sequel to the tale, Tolkien in his own Letters said that : 

    "I did begin a story placed about 100 years after the Downfall of Mordor, but it proved both sinister  and depressing. Since we are dealing with men it is inevitable that we should be concerned with the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good. So that the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice, and prosperity, would be become discontented and restless -- while the dynasts descended from Aragorn would become just kings and governors -- like Denethor or worse... Not worth doing." (J.R.R. Tolkien, Letters, #256, to Colin Bailey)

We are stuck (stuck?) with 1200 pages, a massive appendix, and a series of hopeless heroes (hopeless as in lack of hope). We must remember that Lord of the Rings ends at the beginning of the fourth age, the Age of Men.  So, in a way, these books are a part of our pre-history and we are living the sequel!

The ending of the tale of Middle Earth left me wanting...unlike Peter Jackson's movies.  But the journey to the end and the surprise offered to us by our main protagonist, Frodo, at the edge of the fires of Mount Doom (it only took me sixty readings to really digest that surprise) was and IS certainly worth it. The book, although it should have ended with Frodo's departure, COULD have ended with Frodo's statement,  when he was lying on his bed clutching the gem given to him by Arwen and ill from his horrific past wounds, "It is gone forever," he said, "and now all is dark and empty." (talk about an awkward sentence!)

Instead we see Sam returning to his family.  We have a hint he will follow Frodo but it's not likely.  BUT Tolkien's last words of the three books, perhaps is the reason why I (as so many others) make it a yearly tradition to read these books.  But don't just look up the ending, it's the journey that counts!

I won't be writing again about Lord of the Rings--at least not until NEXT YEAR! :D

An addendum to the above:

I will watch the magnificent epic group of films brought to us by Peter Jackson.  I will gnash my teeth about what he left out and what he added. I will rue the day, however, that I first watched them.  Too many characters faces are now firmly planted with the stars of the movie.  I'm not sure I'm happy with that at all.  I like to let my mind create the faces and the characters--now they are all too real!
Bilbo smoking a pipe
Bilbo smoking a pipe

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