Tolkien's epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) is a musical.
This was the second trait that jumped out at me during my first reading of this belovTolkien's epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) is a musical.
This was the second trait that jumped out at me during my first reading of this beloved fantasy novel. I was startled by the important role that music, singing, and song played in each segment, how integral was the improvisational song as well as the memorized, ancient song to the forward movement of the plot and also to character development. When a character dies, his friends make up a song on the spot. When one wants to know about a certain location or character, he asks for or offers a song passed down through oral tradition. When Frodo and Sam embark on their grueling journey, they often stop to ponder how they will be remembered in song. In some -- many -- ways, song is its own character -- perhaps the most important character -- of LOTR. Indeed, the function of story-telling stood out to me as a paramount concern: not only for Tolkien as a writer but also for each central character. Well-being of body and mind depends upon learning the histories of lands and peoples, adventures are undertaken in the promise of becoming a character in the story -- what seems the story of life, in general. I was awestruck by Tolkien's not-very-subtle way of highlighting "the story"'s particular relevance in modern times by showcasing its function in fantastical times gone by. The mission is not only for Frodo to destroy the ring. The mission is also -- maybe more importantly -- for him to return to tell his story to Bilbo, the historian, the author. This goal is perhaps less iterated than the destroying of the ring, but it appears consistently throughout the novel in the mouths and thoughts of the Hobbits. In fact -- now that I think of it -- it appears ONLY in the context of Hobbitly reflection. The Hobbits -- those whose songs are, ironically, mostly jest, fun, and celebration -- are the most aware of song's role in teaching the most important lessons of life: the struggle to conquer the shadowy self. I thought to myself that this epic would be a fantastic text to help me emphasize the critical role of storytelling in composition, creative writing, and literature courses.
I fell in love with LOTR when I saw Jackson's films. I thought, "these are very true to the novels," even though I had never read the novels -- isn't that a funny feeling? (Has that ever happened to you? -- You think you know a lot about something because it is part of your literary culture?) I was swept away by the sublime landscapes. The nature in the films seemed to jump out of Burke's Inquiry. But as I read the novels, I understood that nature is, like song, its own character -- maybe more important than any of the other central figures (except song). Nature certainly could be vast and harsh, big and powerful. But mostly, it was unknowable, quaint, and localized (maybe domesticated?) to such an extent that Tolkien takes a lot of time to describe its intricacies: much more than I expected. Nature is, like song, above the outcome of the ring. Tom Bombadil, is one representation of nature (like the Ents) who has been in Middle Earth before even the Elves. He (and his nature) will continue even if everything else falls to "evil." Tolkien makes his point sharp with the Ents -- actually bringing "Nature" to "life." In the films, I hated (HATED) the Ents. In the novels, they were my favorite characters. In fact, I cried when I learned that they never found their Entwives. Even more than the destruction of the ring, I wanted the Ents to find the Entwives again. The Ent/Entwives relationship is the first romantic one that is fully actualized in the work; and it is the only romance that ends unfulfilled. The un-fulfillment of the Ents struck me hard. Indeed, I wanted to undertake a writing of the history of the Ents/Entwives -- it seems like it could be such a feminist epic! Entwives, what happened to you in your Herland-like Brownlands? How did you go up in flames, my sisters?
I wished that someone would have sung me the story. Somewhere out in a quaint, dewy landscape fringed with bleak, sharp mountains in the background, I would have propped myself up on a tree and thought about companionship, relishing every last bite of my meager luncheon, casting warning glances at my darkening shadow as it tries to get closer to my heart. ...more
I was pulled in by the timeless Orwellian plot of a country fat with too much surveillance, and reminded of Takami's Battle Royale with Collins's mingI was pulled in by the timeless Orwellian plot of a country fat with too much surveillance, and reminded of Takami's Battle Royale with Collins's mingling of children and violence as entertainment. But what intrigued me the most about the tale was Katniss's -- the main character's -- affinity (and also her distaste) for love.
I was once a sixteen year old girl and I was in love with the idea of being in love, but not so eager to actually commit. Katniss is definitely a sixteen year old girl. Like me, her first love is her younger sister, whom she covets too fiercely.
She feels that she must live and die for her sister, Prim. She must protect her from the cruel world where not everyone loves her. This love makes her an animal. It primes her to walk the line between brutality and love -- the mixture that makes a winner in the Hunger Games.
When she is in the games, Katniss must again take a love object or she can't reach her full potential of brutality...or of love. Her love interest, Rue, is Prim-like: small, girly, reliant on her, a healer. But then, Katniss discovers that Rue is not Prim; she is cunning, quick, animated, capable of surviving. Suddenly Katniss makes a key observation that Rue is a lot like herself. And she dismisses -- usurps -- Prim with Rue. Pretty much entirely.
Part of winning the Games depends on how Katniss can manifest a love that she doesn't quite feel for her district partner, Peeta, and the Capital's censorship of the love that she does feel for Rue. Peeta is portrayed as truly loving Katniss but Katniss can never really make her play at love for Peeta real. She must learn the gestures of love without the emotion. And this is what wins her the game, because sponsors are drawn to their affair.
That isn't really what wins Katniss the game. Katniss wins, really, because Thresh (a contender from Rue's district) spares her life when he learns that she showed her love for Rue.
Katniss's "real" love -- for Rue -- is the saving love. Yet, her loving act of decorating the young girl's body with flowers, is censored from viewers: dismissed as if it were too dangerous. The normalized love between a young obsessive boy and a shy girl is what viewers want in the victors.
Love is the overarching theme, for me, in this book: the kind of love that is right and the kind that is wrong. I look forward to reading about how love plays out for Katniss in the next two books.
One overlooked end-of-the-world text is Mary Shelley’s novel The Last Man in which a plague invades Europe and, eventually, the world. This repetitiveOne overlooked end-of-the-world text is Mary Shelley’s novel The Last Man in which a plague invades Europe and, eventually, the world. This repetitive, cyclical text feels even longer than Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year and yet less events occur to move the plot forward. Shelley’s vision of the end of times is vastly different from any other apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic text I have read as the doom takes years (nearly forever) to come to fruition. Humanity’s demise is not immediate here. It involves prolonged suffering and gives characters almost an eternity to reflect and take action. Taking action is precisely what characters in this novel do not do…unless, of course, running for office and trying to fight the plague with soap-box preaching and parliamentary antics can save the world.
The hero esand survivors are Lionel Verney, a noble-born orphan who begins as a dirty rogue and climbs the social ladder to become an imaginative, intellectual, and moral leader (some say much like Shelley herself), Adrian, Earl of Winsor, a passionate — some may say mad — revolutionary; Clara, Verney’s niece; and Evelyn, Verney’s daughter. In the last scene of the novel, these survivors abandon France and (not surprisingly for this period, or for Shelley) head toward Switzerland.
What struck me about this novel was that unlike other apocalyptic protagonists, these heroes seems to learn nothing through their jaunt with the plague, and they have had about 300% more time to figure it out than others. There is never any attempt to figure out where the plague originates or how to cure it. Likewise, there is no attempt to run from the plague or to protect themselves from it. In fact, Verney and the Earl see the plague as an opportunity to rise in rank in government and take on more public roles, leading society toward their ideal for humanity. I have never seen anything like this; it was startling! Similarly, the same events happen time and again in this novel. Verney pauses and makes the same observations until I was nearly sick of reading this novel. Shelley’s vision of the apocalypse was the most unproductive, stagnant read in the genre…which, of course, makes it very important and worthy of a second read. ...more