Tuesday 24 July 2007

The Greatest Work of all Time

I suppose for everyone there are things they have been introduced to which have changed their lives. Ideas and concepts which have been crucial in forming their outlook.
And for many of us, there are books which have been crucial to forming our worlview.

I suppose most of you would assume I'd be naming Nietzche, Marx, Darwin or St Augustine here. I'm not. Because if it wasn't for one book, I may never have read any of those works.

That book was the Lord of The Rings.
I first read it aged ten. It opened my eyes to a genre. Not just fantasy literature- Tolkien is more than that, he is the creator of a whole mythology. The mythology the Lord of The Rings is built upon, seven thousand years of battle between The Children of Eru and the forces of Melkor, is so intricate and so rich, it took most cultures hundreds of years to build the same.
And the richness of it touched me deeply.

As a teenager I developed a fascination with Greek and Roman Myth, Norse Myth, the Arthurian Legend, Indian Myth, the whole collective subconscious of man's legends.

This is what led to my doing my degree in Literature.
But by then, I myself had moved on. My reading had led to a deep interest in human history per se. By following the whole process from its begining, by getting a depth and perspective to the place we are now, by considering the logic behind viewpoints, I found myself involved in politics on the one hand, and philosophy and theology on the other.

As I got to my mid twenties, many of the philosophical speculations I was encountering in my reading led me to into checking the science behind ideas. This got me into reading people like Hawking, Dawkins, etc.

So I have quite a range of interests. I know a little about a lot, rather than a lot about a little.
But I think you get a better overall that picture that way.

It's still true today however, that I'm unlikely to read a fiction novel NOT in the fantasy or science fiction genre.
I'm currently eagerly awaiting the next installment of Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time series.

It's also sadly true that I know almost as many words in Sindarin as I do in French.

JRR Tolkien. The giant of man's literary endeavours.
The man who first set my imagination free.


Anonymous said...

I LOVE LOTR...my favorite trilogy! I got the books as a present, but have yet to read them...I should really do that sometime, I am sure they are better than the movies...which rocked it hard by the way!

Anonymous said...

The Hobbit was my first introduction to Tolkien, about the same age. Love or hate the Harry Potter series, it's having the same effect for a generation of new readers.

The next book on my list is Atlas Shrugged, which, to my shame, I haven't yet read...

Anonymous said...

crushed - i also read LOTR as a teenager. wonderful books.

david - Atlas Shrugged is a masterpiece but set aside the best part of a year to read it.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

You are a man of many talents with a copious appetite for life's mysteries. Tolkien is a master at galvanizing our imagination and facing the unknown enigma of mankind. It's a modern day fable that keeps our spirit alive with wonder.

Anonymous said...

I used to read Enid Blyton. I am not sure that kids read her stuff anymore. Did you study her in your literature degree?

Anonymous said...

Jenny- Was worried before the film came out that the films might not meet my expectations, but they did. In fact Watching the Fellowship of the Ring first time in the cinema was an amazing experience- almost a dream.

David- I'm kind of a Tolkien nut. I'm still trying to got hold of an original edition of the hobbit- before he rewrote the Gollum chapters. Not read Atlas Shrugged, I'm afraid.

Pommy- It made me read things as a teenager I would never have read otherwise- Spenser's Faerie Queene, for example.
To LOTR isn't just a novel, it is a whole mythic cycle in one.
And still as rich as the entirity of Greek legend.

The quest of Beren to steal a silmaril from the crown of Melkor is as rich a tale as that of Theseus.

Jenny- I hope you didn't think when I said I knew almost as many words in Sindarin as French that that meant I could speak either. What I meant was I know a few words of each. But I DO know enough French to get your meaning...

Alexys- It is the depth of his work, it is almost impossible to find an inconsistancy. The appendices are fascinating in their own right. I cannnot find anything ever written that comes close to his works.

JJ- No, we didn't do Enid Blyton. We did Jane Austen, who isn't much better in my opinion (Hate the Ninetenth century novel...)
To be honest, I wasn't the most studious student in my student days.

Anonymous said...

Oh Crushed- you are making me jealous given that's what you say to me every night on the phone. :(

Anonymous said...

CBI. Imust confess I read a lot of books and Ilove SciFi. Mankind and the future fascinates me.

As far as corporations go I see them as indifferent to humanity but their actions actually go towards improving it by encouraging innovation and the profits madeby some actually go directly towards improving the human race.

A bit like the space programme has a specific intent yet the work performed has benefits outside of the original aims.

Anonymous said...

Oh! and I can't speak French either but I would say that whatever it is you get her phone number CBI. I recognise enough words to know you are on to a good thing. She looks hot too.

Anonymous said...

Bag...did you miss my comment?

Anonymous said...

Dammit! I had a comment all written out and then my internet connection royally shat itself. Bastard.

I think I said I like Tolkien. But I wasn't introduced to him until I was about 19, after the movies came out. I had no interest in seeing them (except for the fact that there was one smoking hot elf in there) until one day, when I was in a friends room and I idly picked up the book. Since I can't start a book without having to finish it, I did.

I did enjoy it. But I have to say that every time I read it I'm not hooked in until about a third of the way through the second book. Then I can't put the damned thing down.

Anonymous said...

I was nearly christened Bilbo - apparently. I was raised in a house where the Rings was required reading... For this reason I boycotted it for years. Did read them all in the end - the dominant cultural paradigm always crushes youthful rebellion...

Anonymous said...

Is there any reason I am not an invited reader of your Blog Uber?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, you didn't crawl through the dog flap.I did leave it open for you. :) Had a bone waiting for you and everything.

Anonymous said...

I didn't like what seemed to be arbitrary and random powers given to various characters - "Well if you were able to use that power to get you out of a fix then why didn't you use the same one earlier ?" being my main question when watching the films.

Anonymous said...

Well I suppose you can sign me up for being a LOTR fan as well. Have read other of Tolkiens work and I have to say, they are mighty impressive. Although me and names don’t go well together. When me and some friends were playing “Masters of Movies” I got the question “What character did Orlando Bloom portray in LOTR?”.

Duuh, Legolas. But then my friend just rolled his eyes and asked “Yeah, but who is Legolas father?” Forgetting that he is a hardcore-tolkien fan I just battered my eyelashes saying “Mr. Legolas?”

Ehum… let us just say, he didn’t speak with me for days….

Anonymous said...

Ubermouth- In French or Sindarin? Mutley has his own dogflap?
Ah,you're a kind and loving girl, Miss Uber.

Bag- When (if) I ever finish my novel, I shall send you a copy. I doubt it will ever happen.
I worry about the pace of the space programme, for a number of reasons, concerning long term future. There is a post at Imagined Community entitled 'Where are all the little Grem Men?' which deals with the problems of our particular stage of development.

Mutley- Funnily enough, my mum wanted to call me Bilbo- my gran overruled it. But I do like Isildur and Anarion as boys names. Arwen would be nice for a girl.

E-K- LOTR doesn't tend to use random magic powers- where magic appears, it is usually consistent and the theory can be followed.
There is in fact only one thing in the work that the proof reader missed- Gildor Inglorien of the House of Finrod.

Crashie- The name of Legolas' father does appear in the book- Thranduil, King of the Greenwood Elves.
Further info on him is to be found in unfinished tales.
His father Oropher was killed in the first war against Sauron and Thranduil saw into the pits under Barad Dur. After this a shadow lay on him (a bit like Denethor) and he became suspicious and untrusting, fearing the return of the shadow, hence his character in the Hobbit.

Interestingly, Tolkien went crazy when he saw the first Swedish translation of LOTR- They went overboard a bit.

Anonymous said...

tolkien was gifted and accomplished an amazing feat with the lotr. in grade school, i was fascinated by the fantasy and characters. the films bring it to the big screen, but like we always hear, the books are jsut so much better and full.

Anonymous said...

I picked up the LOTR trilogy and the Hobbit when I was about that age, and re-read the books after the movie came out. They are lovely. Both periods of my life have that same haunted, romantic quality because of that.

Anonymous said...

I first read The Hobbit when I was around 10 too. I tried after that to read the LOTR but it was too verbose for me I guess and I couldn't finish it. Then when I greaduated from nursing school I vowed I would read a book a week and have kept true to my vow. I started off with the LOTR and LOVED it so much that I read it once a year now. All 3 books! It is very catholic in nature so I can see your appeal in it too. I think I am getting a crush on you!I am off the see about the series you mention!

Anonymous said...

Peux je voir votre penis?

Anonymous said...

Phish- Apologies for leaving you out earlier, I was multitasking- badly.
I always fel you really hit pace with the mines of Moria. Then it really become something not done since Paradise Lost.

Raffi- It's the detail, that's what gets you hooked. What I got obssessed by was things like who are the other wizards (Saruman talks of the staffs of the wizards)So that's Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey, Radagast the Brown and....?

But Tolkien DID write their names down. They went to the Eastern lands that you don't se on the main map ; Morinehtar the Blue and Romestamo the Blue (both Blue, don't know why).
I just got way too addicted- still am.

Helen- It led my to my fascination with so many diverse things. It truly is Epic, it's just easily head and shoulders above anything else ever written.
I guess it made my very sceptical of the so called 'literary canons' You do a degree anf LOTR isn't great literature (though surely now people see it is) whereas Jane Austen (19th Century Jackie Collins) is considered to be.

Poody- I tell you what you make you like, most people who love LOTR do, but it's very different. But it is by the author closest to JRRT in thought, CS.Lewis.
It's called Out of the Silent Planet, its the first of a Trilogy. He wrote it before the Narnia stories and its kind of the adult version of the same theme, though at first you'll think it straight Sci-Fi.
But definitely made a huge impression on my offball theological outlook.
LOTR is ultimately about redemption, so yes it is very Catholic. People forgets Bormoir redeems himself, Gollum ALMOST does. Its not a a good versus evil novel, its about the nature of both.

Jenny- Do you say that to ALL the boys?

Anonymous said...

Yep...pretty much!

Anonymous said...

What about romantic thriller?

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post, detailing the history of your own reading, Crushed. I'm not a Tolkien fan but I have read the trilogy and enjoyed it at the time. I think you are right in saying that he created a mythology. I never thought of it like that before.

Anonymous said...

Ubermouth, I must confes I did read your comment but CBI seems to be free and single. A little bit of competition is good for you all. You might need to up the stakes a little in your hot calls.

Although CBI may of course want to ignore that and get rid of any competition in the marketplace by ignoring the offer.

btw : What is the criteria for access to your blog?

Jenny, I would be happy to. However I don't want to travel all that way just for you to be disappointed. According to Ms Smack's criteria it's a tiddler. I think you need to consider the whole package and at least give it a trial run rather than just a quick kick of the tires. After all landrovers are not all that nice to look at but when it comes to the ride they can go anywhere you wish to go.

CBI, I'd love to read it. Any time you get round to it.

Anonymous said...

Jenny- Well, I suppose that's not a bad idea. as my Gran used to say, 'you don't ask, you don't get.'

Lord SB- Much Arthurian Legend is exactly that.
Love and War will always be the themes that fascinate throughout time- or if you want to be more accurate; sex and conflict.

Still need to read yours from start to finish.

Welshcakes- It is very much a legendarium of prehistory. People forget Middle Earth is this world, just long ago.
In fact, you can work out the action of LOTR 'takes place' in Europe in around 6,500 BC.
It even has its own deities, the Valar.

Bag- Always free, sometimes single.
This comments thread seems to be turning into a speed dating forum...
I started it years ago, and kind of got sidetracked. As you would expect, it has a fantasy setting, but a futuristic one and it is pretty dark. Let's just say this I wanted voltaire's quote 'If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him on the flyleaf.