Total Absorption

shire-bagginses
I am experiencing the most intense literature-related whiplash OF MY LIFE.

You know what I’m talking about — the daze that follows the departure from a fictional world in which you’ve long invested, whether your own or someone else’s.

In my case, devouring the tales from Middle-earth as penned by J.R.R. Tolkien was an unexpected endeavor for me. I don’t remember exactly when — it was possibly two or three years ago — that I quickly read “The Hobbit.” Then immediately after that I plunged into “The Fellowship of the Ring.” It must have been near that fall that I began “The Two Towers,” which is the most battle-intense of the three parts of LotR. So naturally, being a girl, I got bored of the battles and stopped halfway through the middle of the book.

Fast-forward now to this summer. My family decided it was time once more to watch the trilogy of films from Peter Jackson. Then when the last images from “The Return of the King” fell away, I was hungry for more Middle-earth. So I picked up “The Two Towers” again. I had bought this big single-volume version that thus presented Tolkien’s epic in the way in which he intended — as one single book, divided into the 3 parts known by the movies. So I started reading “The Two Towers” probably last week. Then as it got past the battles I got much more enthralled, and then suddenly this past Sunday, I was reading “The Choices of Samwise Gamgee” and then ALL OF A SUDDEN “THE TWO TOWERS” WAS DONE.

“The Return of the King,” like the last of the three films, is the accumulation of the preceding two parts of the epic. It’s nonstop action, and we’re talking ACTION — not the slow crawl that, say, Stoker’s “Dracula” comes to, right when you expect the pace to become breathless.

Anyways…I was tearing through 50 pages a day, which considering the density of Tolkien’s writing I see as very impressive. Then yesterday I read 100 pages of “Return,” and had only 100 left to go, and so I stayed up last night to finish it. I bid farewell to Frodo and went home to the Shire with Sam early this morning:

And thus today I am whiplashed, watching production videos on Peter Jackson’s Facebook page for “The Hobbit” as I am desperately thirsty for more preciouss and hobbits and dwarves and wizards.

And reading Tolkien the last few weeks has taken quite an emotional toll on my own writing endeavors.

See, Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” is THE, and I mean THE EPIC FANTASY.
Like, every fantasy story any writer could tell following Tolkien’s penmanship is blarney – it’s dishwater – it’s an imitation.
And I’m not going to pretend like that doesn’t have its own implications for me.
Plunging myself into Middle-earth revealed acutely to me my own shortcomings yet living in my precious little Helios, in the cardboard bridges I tried to forge.
And rather than serving as an inspiration, for the last week Middle-earth has conquered my own pen. I know I’ll move past this — I’m determined to, but for now I’ve given myself over to pondering my own place in the realm of fantasy. See, given the depths to which Tolkien developed Middle-earth — with languages and song and history and weapons and races and geography — he offers many lessons to me. All these areas I wondered how to establish in Helios make a little more sense with Tolkien’s help. Ah, that he still lived!

I mean, I’ve got to say this, because it was running through my head for many a sentence and many a page in Tolkien’s words…you know that an author has done something splendid when the movie adaptation doesn’t have to add cheap thrills and awkward love scenes and badass one-liners…because the words penned by the author himself, and the epic scenes he wove together, are already so phenomenal that no invention of a filmmaker catering to an audience of another century could possibly outdo the original.

Now, what stands as the biggest argument against the movies that completing Tolkien’s book has raised concerns the very different endings for the film and book “The Return of the King.” The film basically excluded the last 60 pages of the book and opted for a cheerier alternative. That is to say, in the film, the hobbits returning to the Shire found it unchanged. That wasn’t Tolkien’s vision. In the book, Sauron has infiltrated Hobbiton and turned it rancid with “ruffians.” Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry must before they can settle in at home start an uprising of hobbits and drive the men out. There are casualties, and Frodo at last finds Sauron or “Sharkey” seated in Bag End, gloating over his corruption of Frodo’s home. Then Frodo offers this bastard wizard mercy, and offers Grima Wormtongue safety in Hobbiton…but lo, Sauron detests Frodo for his mercy and disparages Wormtongue, who then slits Sauron’s throat before himself being struck down by arrows from hobbits standing guard. 0___0; THEN, and only then, can Sam marry Rosie and can Frodo leave with Elrond and Galadriel across the Sea.
I see why the films avoided this last conflict in Tolkien’s story, but I don’t respect it. At the very end I think they deserted the dark depths into which Tolkien’s cast must descent before the last page can be written in favor of something easier to stomach.

This aside, ah…I am spent. Tolkien gave me such a high and now I want more.
Now I must apply myself elsewhere — to school, and to my own worlds! May I be guided by J.R.R. Tolkien and his small heroes as I paint my own tiny picture under his grand, everlasting mural.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *