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The Fellowship of the Ring

I first read The Lord of the Rings almost 50 years ago. Subsequently I have reread it at least twice. I often have wanted to do another rereading, but as Bilbo is preparing for his birthday party, I realize that I can quote many of the next lines before I turn the page. It could almost be a parlor game: What does Gandalf say next? Having failed yet again to find a good novel that I haven’t read, I’ve embarked on my fourth reading of The Lord of the Rings. I just finished the first volume, The Fellowship of the Ring.

I still know the story by heart, of course. We all do. But this is the first time I’ve reread these books since my retirement more than 10 years ago. In those 10 years, I’ve read more about Tolkien including a book about the Inklings, I’ve read some of Tolkien’s letters, I’ve read a good bit on linguistics and prehistory, I’ve written two novels and part of a third, and — most important — I’ve hiked in remote places in the British Isles. It even helps to have visited Oxford last year, since that’s where these books were written. I’m finding that this fourth reading is rewarding for new reasons — savoring Tolkien’s use of language, admiring his scholarship, and marveling at his imagination.

One thing that has surprised me, though, is how much I’m enjoying the walking, walking, walking. Tolkien’s descriptions of terrain, sky (including the night sky), and weather are extraordinary. Having now hiked in moor, bog, and woodland and having ascended long, rocky, heather-covered ridges to the rainswept tops of wild mountains, I can now appreciate what previously was lost on me. It’s a travelogue, and it’s Tolkien’s descriptions that make Middle-earth so real. I never found the perfect pub (I hope to keep trying), but the provincial hotels of Scotland (such as the Royal Hotel at Stornaway) are almost as much fun as the Prancing Pony inn at Bree would be.

Before I start volume 2, The Two Towers, I am going to read William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which Ken recently finished and highly recommends. It’s a big tome, 1,250 pages. It’s the sort of book that will be kept on a prominent shelf for reference, so I bought the hardback 50th anniversary edition, which was released in 2011. Ken wrote a good comparison of Trump and Hitler, on how they’re alike and how they differ, which I would like to reproduce here later, with Ken’s permission. These three evil characters occupy the same dark space in our minds where we store our dreads and icons of depravity — Sauron, Hitler, and Trump.

Speaking of Trump, each day we learn something new and horrifying about his criminality and treason. I haven’t felt that I have anything to add by posting about politics here, though, because I think that the responsible media and the responsible commentariat are getting it right. I still don’t understand, though, why Republican senators don’t talk Trump into resigning so that the Republican Party can try to save itself, and its hold on the Senate, by putting up another candidate. But then again, it is with Trump as it was with Hitler (and Sauron). To good people (and good hobbits) who are working with good information, such depravity is incomprehensible.

One Comment

  1. Karren wrote:

    I too, return to travel along with the Hobbits now and then through the years, and each time, find something new. For the first reading, it was the characters, and how they were so different, yet complimented each other. Second reading, it was the land, the travelogue, as you put it so well. It was only on the third reading that I slowed down and savored the poetry, and on subsequent readings, it went slower each time as I immersed my self in that special world.

    As a total peaceful person, the wars don’t engage me, and I still just skim them, but the lands, nature and all the different characters still entrance me, each time.

    What a talent, and the way each word is a special jewel. Love the books, and they just get better with each reading. Thank you for the update. It’s been about two years since I traveled along with the Fellowship, and it’s probably time to hike that trail again.

    Thursday, July 2, 2020 at 11:14 am | Permalink

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