Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Highest of High Fantasy

Is there anything more seminal than Tolkien?  Is there anything more definitive, watersheddy, than The Lord of the Rings?  I've seen the movies, I've read The Hobbit, I've tried to read the series before.  But this time--this time I am taking it on!

Today I finished The Fellowship of the Ring, an audiobook version read by Rob Inglis.  It was a great performance--a mellifluous voice, distinct characters, and he even sang the songs!  I'm incredibly glad to have done it this way--there's a lot of rambling, and I'm a bad skimmer, so I get more out of having a reader's performance to bring some drama to the more pedestrian--in this case, literally--parts of a story.

So, some observations from a LOTR newbie--well, a newbie who knows the whole plot from the movies.

(You'll have to forgive all my list-based posts lately; it's just so much easier than trying to organize my thoughts coherently.)

1) While I understand why they cut him from the movies, I was quite fond of Tom Bombadil.  I actually really liked how he spoke in verse, even when he wasn't singing.  Also, his songs are the ones Inglis performed best.  And those poor, put-upon hobbits needed a break just then, needed someone to help them out. 

2) The whole "whoops, the ring slipped on my finger in my pocket by accident" thing could have been prevented if they'd taken a cue from Lyra in The Golden Compass and welded it shut in some sort of tin.  Honestly, all they needed to do was put it in some kind of box, or tie it up tight in a handkerchief.  Anything so it couldn't be put on impulsively or "accidentally." 

3) OMG so much walking.  I could almost tell you which days they crossed hedgerows and when they turned right to go uphill and follow the ridgeline, versus turning away east to go across a small river and then back up along a lane around a blackberry hedge.

4) Related, I think this is less an adventure novel than a travelogue.  I'm picturing Bill Bryson as, say, Pippin Took, and how he would have written about the journey.  Tolkien clearly had this world fleshed out, and he was mostly looking for an excuse to walk through it.  And to tell us the words for a lot of different places in several languages.  Let it never be said that this man needed to get a hobby--dude had one.

5) Is there anything an elf can't do?  I mean, seriously, why do other races even exist except possibly to admire the cloaks and boats and armor and weapons and archery and music and magic and beauty and dignity and longevity and delicious cooking and restorative beverages and woodlore and probably their cleaning products and the aroma of their morning breath and their advanced basket weaving skills?  How are the elves not invincible?  Seriously, it sounds like it must be boring to be an elf, just wandering around being perfect.

6) OMG, so many songs.  I have been wondering if the tunes that the reader used were canonical from somewhere or interpretations that he and/or his production team came up with.  That seems like some pretty cool prepwork.  Some of them are actually quite lovely, and some are just forgettable and interminable. 

I will always have lots of patience for them, though, because of the music from Rankin/Bass's animated version of The HobbitMany, if not all, of the songs are directly from the book, and I can still sing pretty much all of them by heart.  I'm pretty sure my singing is better than the incredibly cheesy orchestrations, but still--there are some things that will live on in your heart.

Anyway, I'm diving into The Two Towers as soon as I get it downloaded to my phone.  19 hours down--34 to go!

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