Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Recommendations, discussions, and odes to your favorites
Serzen
Posts: 139
Joined: February 6th, 2010, 11:42 pm
Location: Upstate NY
Contact:

Re: Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Post by Serzen » May 13th, 2010, 11:19 am

Well bugger all, I thought I remembered that one correctly. I knew he was writing SOMETHING related to the books while he served, seem to remember that he wrote a lot of it standing up, but alas.

Thanks for clarifying, Ink.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

User avatar
Bryan Russell/Ink
Posts: 430
Joined: December 20th, 2009, 10:44 pm
Contact:

Re: Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » May 13th, 2010, 1:59 pm

Yeah, I think it was the early Silmarillion stuff. He was a philologist first and foremost, and was interested in constructing languages. But after studying languages for awhile, he really realized that words were more than symbolic markers for specific meanings, and language wasn't simply a logical construct of one to one ratios. He realized languages were living, changing things. Words grew out of experience, out of people and events and history. Words built on each other and were endlessly interconnected. And so he realized if he wanted to truly create organic languages he would need to fabricate a history and mythology. The words would be rooted in that experience, in the people who populated his inventions. Combine that with his desire to create a proper mythology (which he thought England lacked) you come up with the stories of Middle Earth.

The Hobbit he wrote for his kids, perhaps with a few thoughts to his earlier writings in mind. But with LOTR he really circled back to his earlier writings. Here was a way to apply it all, to have a capstone for his histories of Middle Earth. The Final Age, as it were.
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com

User avatar
Matthew MacNish
Posts: 285
Joined: March 5th, 2010, 4:31 pm
Location: Georgia
Contact:

Re: Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Post by Matthew MacNish » May 13th, 2010, 7:05 pm

Ink wrote:The Silmarillion warnings make me laugh. Not that they're wrong. Quite the opposite, really. The Silmarillion comes as a surprise, I think, to most readers, because it's not what they expect: a novel. It's not even a collection of stories. Heck, it's not even modern narrative. It's an invented mythology, and is written in that style. It's not immersive in the sense that it doesn't put you inside the story. It's like reading the old Greek myths. You don't swing down inside Perseus and see his thoughts, feel his pain, hear the hiss of the medusa heads... it's more "Perseus was given a glorious pegasus and a mirror-like shield and flew off and did battle with the minions of Hades and cast them back into the underworld". I think that's usually a shock for readers who are coming from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. And I'm guessing I'm not the only one who has wished that he'd written some of the Silmarillion stories as actual novels (in the mode of LotR). Beren and Luthien anyone?
I agree with Bryan 100%. DO NOT START with the Silmarillion, but whatever you do don't skip it altogether. It's a beautiful collection of legends, but it won't mean much if you don't already care about the world. The Silmarillion is to Middle Earth a bit like the Bible is to Christianity. Only parts are super-exciting but if you have faith in such things you love it anyway.

Being a complete Tolkien nerd and addict feel free to consider my advice with a grain of alcohol ... but I would say there is no question that you ought to start with The Hobbit, if you can't find Bilbo's Last Song that is. Just kidding. The Hobbit is fun light reading with only a rumor of the higher concepts that the War of the Rings will later cover, and cover so well that all your thought becomes bent on it (see what I did there Ink?)

I really hope that you read them all and love them Nathan, but if you're only a casual fan stay away from the one's that are written by Christopher and compiled from his father's very disorganized notes. They're impossible to follow, even for devout addicts like myself.

User avatar
Matthew MacNish
Posts: 285
Joined: March 5th, 2010, 4:31 pm
Location: Georgia
Contact:

Re: Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Post by Matthew MacNish » May 13th, 2010, 7:10 pm

knight_tour wrote:
Nathan Bransford wrote:
knight_tour wrote:It's wonderful that you loved The Hobbit, Nathan. How is it going with LOTR?
My oh my these hobbits sure take their time to get going don't they??
Aw, we're not all patience-deprived out here. I actually prefer my fantasy books this way, though I can't find many of them. I love loads of character development. When I saw the first theatrical version of the Fellowship I couldn't stand it. It was all action. Then the extended version came out and I fell in love with it - they added back in all the character development that they had cut.
I own all three extended DVDs and I won't watch the films any other way. They're not perfect but they are the best adaption of a novel/series of novels ever made.

Why are we so impatient nowadays in this instant gratification society? Personally I love the slow beginning and it makes me weep for the characters even more so when they ... do what they do at the end.

User avatar
Matthew MacNish
Posts: 285
Joined: March 5th, 2010, 4:31 pm
Location: Georgia
Contact:

Re: Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Post by Matthew MacNish » May 13th, 2010, 7:26 pm

Nathan Bransford wrote:I'm now 3/4 of the way through THE TWO TOWERS, and I'm loving it but wow, it's been an interesting experience. FOTR starts off so. slow., and it makes me wonder not only whether Tolkien would have been allowed to publish it in that fashion, but I also wonder if he would have written it the same way if he used a computer. The old ways of writing just didn't really allow for editing in the way that writers today have been accustomed to. I don't think it's just a matter of "oh, the industry today is crass and commercial" or audiences having short attention spans, I think it's just a sign of how the times have changed all around.

The other thing I'm noticing is the way his prose evolved from THE HOBBIT to THE TWO TOWERS. THE HOBBIT was very knowing and younger, and the narrator's voice was so present on the page. Things felt very classic literature. As the series has gone along, the prose has gone from classic to the flowery, almost overwrought dialect that has eventually come to dominate classic fantasy. It's been an interesting evolution.

But I have to say, I'm actually glad I held out on reading this so long - I appreciate Tolkien's greatness and imagination way more than I would have at an earlier age.
That's wonderful Nathan. I'm so glad to hear that you are enjoying it. JRR was an incredible linguist, one of the greatest storytellers ever to have lived ... but even I can admit in spite of my dedicated fanboiism, he was not the most polished writer. And it is exactly that kind of raw novice talent that attracts me to this trilogy. It's not perfect. It's not commercially very viable. Kind of like when someone says "yeah, but have you heard the OLD albums? Before they got signed?" It's wondrous. In some ways I wish that writing like this could still work, but it never would.

Can't wait to hear your thoughts when you're done. And have you read Ink's blog posts about blogging each chapter of LOTR? He lost his copy and stopped too soon but the posts he did do are AWE-SOME.

User avatar
Matthew MacNish
Posts: 285
Joined: March 5th, 2010, 4:31 pm
Location: Georgia
Contact:

Re: Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Post by Matthew MacNish » May 13th, 2010, 7:34 pm

Serzen wrote:Bear in mind that he wrote LOTR primarily while serving in the trenches during WWI; if memory serves, Tolkien wrote the "trilogy" as one piece, and turned it into three volumes for publication (each a year separated from the previous, I think).

Nevertheless, the man was a first rate scholar, and I'm glad that he did what he did; it opened up entire new worlds for modern literature.
I could be wrong, but everything I've read says that though he did base much of it (see: Sam and Frodo's sergeant and officer relationship) off those WWI experiences, he DID NOT write it WHILE SERVING. Otherwise you are correct. In fact he fought his publisher over turning it into a trilogy at all. The original title was the War of the Ring.

I also completely agree with your second paragraph. If it wasn't for Tolkien and his version of Elves and Dwarves and Orcs, would we even have modern fantasy? And what the hell would Gary Gygax have done with his life?

User avatar
Matthew MacNish
Posts: 285
Joined: March 5th, 2010, 4:31 pm
Location: Georgia
Contact:

Re: Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Post by Matthew MacNish » May 13th, 2010, 7:52 pm

Matthew Rush wrote:
Serzen wrote:Bear in mind that he wrote LOTR primarily while serving in the trenches during WWI; if memory serves, Tolkien wrote the "trilogy" as one piece, and turned it into three volumes for publication (each a year separated from the previous, I think).

Nevertheless, the man was a first rate scholar, and I'm glad that he did what he did; it opened up entire new worlds for modern literature.
I could be wrong, but everything I've read says that though he did base much of it (see: Sam and Frodo's sergeant and officer relationship) off those WWI experiences, he DID NOT write it WHILE SERVING. Otherwise you are correct. In fact he fought his publisher over turning it into a trilogy at all. The original title was the War of the Ring.

I also completely agree with your second paragraph. If it wasn't for Tolkien and his version of Elves and Dwarves and Orcs, would we even have modern fantasy? And what the hell would Gary Gygax have done with his life?
Yeah, sorry if I came across as a dick, I was late to arrive to this thread but I am (obviously) pretty passionate about Tolkien. I was going through each comment and responding to the ones I felt I had to ... and I didn't realize that Bryan had already responded to you with a much better reply than I ever could have come up with.

Ink rocks hard like an igneous shard.

Serzen
Posts: 139
Joined: February 6th, 2010, 11:42 pm
Location: Upstate NY
Contact:

Re: Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Post by Serzen » May 13th, 2010, 10:54 pm

Matthew Rush wrote:
Matthew Rush wrote:
Serzen wrote:Bear in mind that he wrote LOTR primarily while serving in the trenches during WWI; if memory serves, Tolkien wrote the "trilogy" as one piece, and turned it into three volumes for publication (each a year separated from the previous, I think).

Nevertheless, the man was a first rate scholar, and I'm glad that he did what he did; it opened up entire new worlds for modern literature.
I could be wrong, but everything I've read says that though he did base much of it (see: Sam and Frodo's sergeant and officer relationship) off those WWI experiences, he DID NOT write it WHILE SERVING. Otherwise you are correct. In fact he fought his publisher over turning it into a trilogy at all. The original title was the War of the Ring.

I also completely agree with your second paragraph. If it wasn't for Tolkien and his version of Elves and Dwarves and Orcs, would we even have modern fantasy? And what the hell would Gary Gygax have done with his life?
Yeah, sorry if I came across as a dick, I was late to arrive to this thread but I am (obviously) pretty passionate about Tolkien. I was going through each comment and responding to the ones I felt I had to ... and I didn't realize that Bryan had already responded to you with a much better reply than I ever could have come up with.

Ink rocks hard like an igneous shard.
I did allow Ink's correction to be noted for the record. As I say, faulty memory. It happens.

As for "coming across as a dick"...My only thought is "This is the internet, everyone's a bigger jerk here than in real life." Or, perhaps more apropos, "On second thought, let's not go The Internet; 'tis a silly place."

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

User avatar
knight_tour
Posts: 161
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 2:30 pm
Location: Baku, Azerbaijan
Contact:

Re: Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Post by knight_tour » May 14th, 2010, 2:05 pm

Matthew Rush wrote: That's wonderful Nathan. I'm so glad to hear that you are enjoying it. JRR was an incredible linguist, one of the greatest storytellers ever to have lived ... but even I can admit in spite of my dedicated fanboiism, he was not the most polished writer. And it is exactly that kind of raw novice talent that attracts me to this trilogy. It's not perfect. It's not commercially very viable. Kind of like when someone says "yeah, but have you heard the OLD albums? Before they got signed?" It's wondrous. In some ways I wish that writing like this could still work, but it never would.
See, I wish publishers would think this through a bit more. I often feel that today's publishing standards are too streamlined. It's like listening to the note by note perfection of a Joe Satriani only to miss the sloppiness but passion of Jimmy Page. I think they should allow more of what Tolkien did in today's work and we might see a bit more passion come through.

User avatar
Nathan Bransford
Posts: 1383
Joined: December 4th, 2009, 11:17 pm
Location: New York, NY
Contact:

Re: Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Post by Nathan Bransford » May 14th, 2010, 2:15 pm

knight_tour wrote: See, I wish publishers would think this through a bit more. I often feel that today's publishing standards are too streamlined. It's like listening to the note by note perfection of a Joe Satriani only to miss the sloppiness but passion of Jimmy Page. I think they should allow more of what Tolkien did in today's work and we might see a bit more passion come through.
But what I wonder about is whether today's reader would have the patience to get through it and whether it would be such a phenomenon today. Anyone reading today already has 60 years of adulation to convince them to get through the first 100 pages of FOTR. Tolkien already had THE HOBBIT under his belt when LOTR came out, but would it have caught on the same way in today's media landscape?

Authors with cred are still given wide latitude to pursue their vision (think: the Jonathans Franzen/Lethem/Safran Foer), but audiences have different expectations than they used to.

I'm not so sure it's publishers that have changed - if you go back and look at old correspondence between authors and publishers in the 1800s it is basically exactly the same as it is today. The basics of economics and artistic vision and risk and editorial eye has always been basically the same. But readers constantly change and I don't know that it's necessarily a bad thing. All writers have had to write for a changing audience, and books have always reflected their times, and when a book becomes a beloved classic it's easy to ignore its faults.

So I don't think it's a matter of thinking that there should be more books written in the style of LOTR (or TALE OF TWO CITIES or MOBY-DICK), but more about appreciating what was great about a past era while recognizing that authors and publishers today are facing the same essential challenge: how to write and publish what their contemporaries want to read.

User avatar
knight_tour
Posts: 161
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 2:30 pm
Location: Baku, Azerbaijan
Contact:

Re: Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Post by knight_tour » May 14th, 2010, 2:37 pm

I guess it's just me, and maybe I will always be out of luck trying to publish my books. I love that slower style. I wouldn't want to see a streamlined version of LOTR. I love wallowing in it, and I wish he could have turned around and expanded the whole Silmarillion in the same style as LOTR. I am writing my books precisely because no publishers are giving me what I want to read most anymore.

BethTH
Posts: 4
Joined: May 15th, 2010, 10:58 pm
Contact:

Re: Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Post by BethTH » May 15th, 2010, 11:41 pm

Nathan, I'm glad you're enjoying the books. They're my favorites of all time, and that's saying a lot.

Sleeping Beauty
Posts: 87
Joined: May 21st, 2010, 2:51 am
Contact:

Re: Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Post by Sleeping Beauty » May 21st, 2010, 11:30 am

How's the reading going, Nathan?

I first read THE LORD OF THE RINGS when I was twelve - I don't think, up until that point, I'd ever felt a more euphoric sense of accomplishment as I did when I finished that story.

"For the books go ever and on and on...
Down from the bookstore where it began.
Now far ahead the story has gone,
And I must follow, if I can..."

User avatar
Nathan Bransford
Posts: 1383
Joined: December 4th, 2009, 11:17 pm
Location: New York, NY
Contact:

Re: Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Post by Nathan Bransford » May 22nd, 2010, 6:44 pm

I'm into the second half of RETURN OF THE KING - I've really enjoyed reading them, though I don't know that they're favorite books of all time. There's so much magic to the books and I can see why people love them so much, but from a writing perspective it has begun to wear on me a bit. I thought THE HOBBIT's prose was almost perfect, but as LOTR goes on it gets more and more stilted and Yoda-esque (obviously LOTR came before Yoda, but you know what I mean). It's also difficult when many of the characters and objects have three different names used interchangeably. But that's just my personal taste.

All the same, the level of imagination and detail are just stunning. He really knows what every leaf on every tree in every part of Middle Earth looks like. It's really an incredible achievement.

Bron
Posts: 71
Joined: December 21st, 2009, 6:21 pm
Contact:

Re: Start with THE HOBBIT or FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?

Post by Bron » May 24th, 2010, 5:35 am

Nathan Bransford wrote: It's also difficult when many of the characters and objects have three different names used interchangeably.
I read LOTR as a kid, and while I loved it, this habit drove me insane. 'Hang on, who's this character? I've never heard his name before but everyone acts as though they know him... ohhh, it's Aragorn with some other name. Man, I just got used to him not being called Strider!' etc.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Majestic-12 [Bot] and 1 guest