The Lord of the Rings • The Fellowship of the Ring | Book One

Nothing elaborate or fancy, just some storytelling thoughts on my re-read:

The plot proper — explicit conflict and character makes a choice that changes their situation — doesn’t begin until “Three Is Company” when Frodo, knowing about the Ring (“The Shadow of the Past”), chooses to travel to Rivendell. This is when the Black Riders first appear. 

On that note, the Black Riders serve as the connecting conflict or anatagonism of this part. They exist as a constant source of fear and anxiety which builds into Frodo’s wounding near Weathertop and eventual onslaught at the Ford of Bruinen.

I found it interesting how much set up there was: Bilbo leaving, Frodo inheriting Bag End, even the time between Frodo officially setting out and his decision to leave with Sam. There’s a seventeen years between “A Long-Expected Party” and “The Shadow of the Past” and that fascinates me. It fits the reader into the doings of Hobbiton and, to a lesser extent the Shire, through their gossip and interactions through the lens of Bilbo and his party. 

Additionally, there’s throughline of the Ring, which Bilbo had and passed to Frodo and which serves as the cause of the plot: Frodo’s leaving the Shire seventeen years later. Even more fascinating, is how the rumors about Bilbo are linked to the Ring — he gained both after he returned from his adventures (There and Back Again, if you will.)

While I can still see how Tom Bombadil is something of a detour, I like what his presence (and later mention) show. Namely, that the hobbits are NOT capable of dealing with malevolent forces which bear no influence of Sauron. If not for Tom, the hobbits would not have escaped the Old Forest or the Barrowdowns. It shows how safe(ly guarded) the Shire is. This is emphasized in Bree; the hobbits seem to attract trouble. 

Additionally, at the very end of this part, Frodo tells the Black Riders to go back to Mordor and leave him alone. But “Frodo had not the power of Bombadil” (209). What strikes me here is the contrast. Tom has the ability to command with his words; Frodo does not, but the parallel to Tom reminds of just that, the ability to use words to dismantle and dispel danger. Even though he’s wounded, Frodo resists in a way that he’s seen used before. It isn’t enough. But I thought it was an interesting detail that wouldn’t have been so striking if Tom had been cut from the story. Heck, even Strider and Glorfindel use words to ease Frodo’s wound. (Well, Strider uses words and athelas, but the point still stands, I think.) 

There was a diversity of poem formats, lots of songs and such. A few have struck with me, but it was enlightening to pay attention to them stylistically.

There were a lot of good quotes. I’d also like to (maybe) type up out when each character is introduced and the first time they speak. Just because I found the order and who and when interesting.

On that note, I’m struck with how direct and precise Tolkien’s language is. I like it. 

More to the point, the way that, while characters have reactions to situations and each other, there’s not a lot of character immersion. I know Sam doesn’t trust Strider because of how Sam talks and what the text tells me: “Sam frowned” (162) and “Sam was not daunted, and he still eyed Strider dubiously” (168). What I mean is, the reader doesn’t experience the story from any particular POV (though the feelings of the hobbits are definitely the viewpoint) and especially not from an immersed-in-said-characters’ experience of the story. That’s not to say the text doesn’t give the reader a sense of what the hobbits feel, because it does. Only it’s not, as I learned on a writing cruise, written in a way for the character to serve as an avatar for the reader in the world. But what’s really fascinating to me about this, is how it reminds me of fairy tales and epics and the Arabian Nights — characters are afraid, delighted, terrified, sorrowful, but it’s conveyed strongest in speech and action. 

On the note of speech, that ties back into Tom Bombadil—words and language are powerful business in Tolkien’s writing. Which, with him being a linguist, makes sense.

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    The Birth of the Firebringer

    Trilogy

    by Meredith Ann Pierce

    When Alma created the world, most of it she made into the Great Grass Plain, which was not a flat place, but rolling like a mare’s back and covered all over with the greencorn and haycorn and the wild oats, knee high, so that when the wind stirred it, billowing, it looked like a mare’s winter coat blowing (1)

    I loved the opening and ending and the tone it lent to the entire book.

    I loved the subtle way it developed. I love her writing. I love how she takes mythological creatures and gives them culture. And on top of that, there is a sense of beauty in all the creatures, even the “bad” ones (the wyverns).

    It scarcely resembled anything he had imagined of wyverns from the singers’ tales: white and sinuous, yes, but not noxious, not hideous. Very lithe and supple, rather –almost…almost beautiful (156).

    But that’s part of the message, I think. It’s big, it’s broad. I really like it.

    I love the developed world, the nuances, the idea of stolen land.

    Oh, I loved the “children of the moon” bit and the correlation between the moon and Alma. I also especially liked the milkweed plants.

    132-134).

    It just really resonated with me. I really loved this book. Highly recommend it.

    Although it does have a trippy out of body experience, and the conclusion with who Firebringer is, is kind of obvious I thought. Especially with his strong hotheaded behavior.

    But I really couldn’t guess who the narrator was. The sudden shift from third person to first person was a little jarring.

    One of my personal favorite scenes was when Jan and Dagg get lost and see the pans dancing and storytelling and fire-making.

    “The pans were coming into the glade.

    They moved in a long file, a whole band of them, and made themselves into a Circle… And then, within the Circle under the moon, three pans began to dance. Goat-footed, high-stepping, they moved and swayed.

    “They dance,” Jan murmured, with a start of surprise.

    Dagg shook his head. “Only the unicorns dance.”

    But it was so” (92).

    It was the first time Jan began to realize there was more cultures and ways of seeing than just the Circle’s way. That and that maybe what the Circle claims is true is questionable.

    “Jan shook his head again, but kept his tongue. It WAS speech, he was sure of it. Then that legend of the pans in the old lays must be false. The goatlings were NOT speechless, had not turned away the Mother’s gift. The discovery astonished him” (93).

    The other reason I liked the scene was the way it very smoothly presented the idea that just because someone seems “primitive” or the stories you hear claim someone is, doesn’t mean they or their culture is. Communication, beauty, and value in a specific culture, ethnic, or species (in the case of the book) is unique to that specific culture, ethnic or species group. It should be seen as beautiful for its own sake/as it is.

    But this tale marks only the first night of my telling. Come to me tomorrow evening, and I will tell you the rest. (234)

    The BFG

    by Roald Dahl

    Now here’s a book that had a mighty big influence on me. I remembered it very well. Especially the idea of mixing dreams or collecting dreams – that’s still a very powerful concept in my mind.

    So, compared to the two shorter works I’ve read, this one begins with a lovely mysterious atmosphere, and well, I’ll just quote it for you:

    “Perhaps, she told herself, this was what they called the witching hour.

    The witching hour, somebody had once whispered to her, was a special moment in the middle of the night when every child and every grown-up was in a deep deep sleep, and all the dark things came out from hiding and had the world to themselves” (Dahl, 10).

    Isn’t that delicious? There’s something mysterious and dangerous about this witching hour. It’s a time when no one should be awake; it’s a time when the unexpected and unusual can happen.

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    Character Names: Journey Beyond the Woods

    So, there are two characters (more ancestral/mythological characters than fleshed out ones), whose names have been rather elusive. Especially once I started considering (1) what they’re names should mean, and (2) what language/letters looked the most correct.

    Like yesterday, I’m not sure how final all this is, but it’ll help as a record of information and as a way to work through to some (probable) final names.

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    Writing Demons: Naming Demons Types

    I’m working on finishing a long overdue story, and I thought I should try to work out group names (it’s not species and it’s not culture; I’m not sure how to distinguish it. Unless it is species’ names? As long as they can produce fertile offspring…)

    Also, I might be going at this backwards. It might be a better idea to work out declensions before I try to revise names. But at least all the work is here when (or if) I alter it in the final draft.

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    Writing Research | Πλούτων & χθόνιος

    Let’s talk about my favorite kind of deity in mythology. It’s a special Greek-based kind, deriving from χθόνιος or khthonios, which I think should mean “of the earth” and more specifically means “in or under the earth“. What fun, right?

    It refers to deities that live under the earth, not to be connected with deities of the earth (or Γῆ). It’s a nice mixture of the plenty of the underworld (riches, wealth) and the somber atmosphere of the underworld (death, graves, souls).

    The Greek Πλούτων /Ἅιδης1 is a nice example of this. Even though Hades is better known as Pluto in his Roman guise, the name seems to derive from a Greek word that relates to wealth. Hence it was Hades’ more positive (and wealthier) aspect. Other Greek deities include Persephone, Hecate, and Demeter.

    I can’t quite explain it, but I’ve always been very partial to this idea of deities or beings. There’s an edge of danger to them, of course, but there’s also wealth and wonder. I like to picture it as vast sparkling cities under the earth with jeweled flowers or trees, but where there’s still the scent of decay and dirt and maybe the voice of ancestors. It’s important (and central) to my writing.

    1 Pluton/Hades