I’m only three-quarters finished with Volume 11 of Arc V entitled Song of the Mysteries, but the pace hasn’t slacked since the first page. In fact, it’s increasing with each subchapter to the point I’m finding it hard to sleep and constantly checking for the next installment to be proofread.
I was hesitant to share my excitement, but the author encouraged me to ‘shout anywhere’ I wanted to about this process. I will of course refrain from spoilers and only relate my feelings (minus specific details) for how the convergence is coalescing from every moment that came before, culminating from all previous ten volumes, into a wondrous, frenzied concerto of . . . and I’ll stop myself there. It has been, thus far, all I could have hoped for and beyond my wildest dreams or imaginings. Janny is the true Masterbard of her Paravian universe to my infinite delight.
This is my second time helping Janny with a final manuscript. The previous volume, Destiny’s Conflict, I help her proofread in 2016, before publication in 2017.
Much has changed in my life in the intervening seven years, but a return to Athera was just what my soul needed this winter, as I acclimate to a new location and continue to search for a new home here in the Pacific Northwest.
With only five chapters left to proof, I should have some final thoughts on this final manuscript in the next week or two.
Stay tuned and thanks for stopping by my much-neglected blog.
Most of January I’ve spent distracting myself from my grief. I’ve binge watched shows, including nearly seven seasons of SG1 and both seasons of The Mandalorian. I’ve watched endless Hallmark Christmas movies. I’ve rewatched old favorites, like Sleeping Beauty, Prince Caspian, The Rocketeer and the entire Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings extended edition movie trilogy. Not all at once. I spread them out over three weekends, ending with Return of the King Monday afternoon, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the last office closed holiday until Memorial Day.
I spent the last two years re-reading The Lord of the Rings concurrently with the corresponding volumes of The History of the Lord of the Rings also known as The History of Middle-earth (volumes six through nine). So my head and memory are fresh with respect for what Tolkien got published and also his original imaginings, vision and what you might call deleted scenes as edited by his son, Christopher, who also passed away one year ago on January 16th.
While I appreciate what Peter Jackson managed to produce, much of it is jarring to someone who knows and holds dear Tolkien’s published masterpiece. Dialogue and sometimes thoughts are transplanted into completely different characters. But I digress. Jackson’s adaptation is the best we have at this time and despite it’s flaws, it still provides a window, however slightly skewed, into Tolkien’s Legendarium. I just hope it leads people to the font of Tolkien’s epic fantasy.
Just as I was starting the movie, though, I had a visit from the TSoKC Special Eagle Delivery Service. I received a large care package from my close friends in the Withywindle Smial via our illustrious leader, full of hobbitish victuals and elvish enchantments to further distract me. A hearty ‘thank you’ will be expressed Friday evening during our regular monthly gathering.
I returned to watching Return of the King, but had to take a break when I found myself dozing off at the two hour mark, just as thing were getting interesting around Minas Tirith. I needed to return some merchandise and went in search of a French coffee press (since I have no coffee maker because I mostly drink black teas). Disappointingly two stores had no presses. Although not my first shopping choice, I knew that Starbucks would have a press so I bought one there. When I got home and was able to read the instructions (which were buried inside the press and not readily available at the shop), I learned I cannot use this press with anything but course ground coffee. So no afternoon coffee to wake me up for the second half of Return of the King.
I confess I fast forwarded through most of the Frodo-Sam-Gollum scenes, at least until close to the end when everything is converging. Those scenes are difficult enough to read and doubly hard to watch. Having very recently re-read them, I felt no need to drag my already bruised heart through that much darkness and despair.
During the Seige of Gondor, when a rock troll is pounding at one of the inner gates of Minas Tirith, Pippin and Gandalf discuss death and Gandalf replies with one of those transplanted lines which Sam actually thinks to himself (and references the much maligned Tom Bombadil):
And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Chapter 9 “Grey Havens”, Book Six, The Lord of the Rings
Partial Synopsis: Contributors analyze Gollum’s character transformation, the psychological journey of Bilbo, the regime set up by Saruman at the end of Lord of the Rings and its parallels to fascism, the books’ narrative technique, and Tolkien’s rich use of myth and symbol.
I found most of the essays collected in A Tolkien Compass to be intriguing and thought provoking. At least three of them added twenty new books, journals and articles to my to-be-read queue. The notes alone on a couple of the essays were three or four pages in length and sent me down fantastic research rabbit holes. I can’t decide which essay is my absolute favorite, so I’ll list my top five here (in author alpha order):
Huttar, Charles A. “Hell and the City: Tolkien and the Traditions of Western Literature”
Miller, David M. “Narrative Pattern in The Fellowship of the Ring“
Rogers, Deborah C. “Everyclod an Everyhero: The Image of Man in Tolkien”
Scheps, Walter “The Fairy-tale Morality of The Lord of the Rings“
West, Richard C. “The Interlace Structure of The Lord of the Rings“
Honorable Mentions include Agnes Perkins’ “The Corruption of Power” and U. Milo Kaufmann’s “Aspects of the Paradisiacal in Tolkien’s Work”
A Tolkien Companion, originally published in 1975, amazed me with the depth of insight and scholarship gleaned from the then available works published by Tolkien and about Tolkien’s writing. I saw at least one reference to the manuscripts archived at Marquette University in Wisconsin. Yet, these essays still pre-date the publication of The Silmarillion and the volumes of The History of Middle-earth. Unlike Master of Middle-earth, however, I did not gain any new revelations about Tolkien’s Legendarium, but I did experience profound and thought provoking moments. If I had to choose my favorite essay from the collection, it would probably be Richard West’s “The Interlace Structure of The Lord of the Rings” because I had to restrain myself from recording the entire essay as an audio excerpt.
I recommend this to people interested in delving deeper into Tolkien’s writing.
And since I start off October by celebrating or at least contemplating being another year older, I decided to start a Twitter post series based on the Hammond & Scull Reader’s Companion to The Lord of the Rings, in which the timeline is very accurately tracked as the story unfolds. So on the morning of September 30th, the last day of that month, I finished reading “The Uruk-hai” chapter in The Two Towers and picked up the Reader’s Companion to read their research and notes on the same chapter, but instead I wondered what was happening “on this day” in Middle-earth? So I returned back to the chapter “A Knife in the Dark” from The Fellowship of the Ring and found the corresponding entry for last Monday: Continue reading “This Week in Middle-earth”
I stumbled across this fan film last week while researching (translation: falling down another Tolkien rabbit hole) the backstory of Gilraen, mother of Aragorn. I am always interested in Tolkien’s female characters because there are so few of them and nearly all of them have surprising agency considering Tolkien’s times. The Tolkien Gateway article for Gilraen includes a link at the very bottom that delves deeper into her tragic tale, gleaned from The Lord of the Rings Appendices and other Legendarium sources: The Tragedy of Gilraen, Aragorn’s Mother
Gilraen probably has the saddest epitaph of any of Tolkien’s characters (except perhaps Turin and his sister):
Onen i-Estel Edain, ú-chebin estel anim.
“I gave hope to the Dúnedain; I kept none for myself.”
Gilraen could not see the light for the growing darkness and despaired, living only half as long as she should have, as one of the few remaining Dúnedain.
Last week marked the anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday, prompting Alan Brown to take a look back at the 1965 Ballantine paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings, which ushered in a new age for both Middle-earth and the publishing industry—and, of course, helped changed the lives of generations of fans in the process.
In Meditations on Middle-earth, sixteen bestselling fantasy authors share details of their personal relationships with Tolkien’s mythos, for it inspired them all. Had there been no Lord of the Rings, there would also have been no Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin; no Song of Ice and Fire saga from George R. R. Martin; no Tales of Discworld from Terry Pratchett; no Legends of Alvin Maker from Orson Scott Card. Each of them was influenced by the master mythmaker, and now each reveals the nature of that influence and their personal relationships with the greatest fantasy novels ever written in the English language.
If you’ve never read the Tolkien books, read these essays and discover the depth and beauty of his work. If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings, the candid comments of these modern mythmakers will give you new insight into the subtlety, power, and majesty of Tolkien’s tales and how he told them.
Meditations on Middle-Earth is a 2002 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Related Work.
My Favorite Essays
If you read only one or two of these essays, I highly recommend Michael Swanwick’s “A Changeling Returns” and Donald A. Anderson’s “Tolkien After All These Years” – both of which brought tears to my eyes for very different reasons. The latter also added to my TBR by referencing many non-fiction titles not yet gracing my shelves.
“What he [Sean] heard was the same book I had discovered that sleepless night . . . the single best adventure story every written. As an adult, however, I found that during my long absence it had transformed itself into something else entirely. It was now the saddest book in the world.”
Michael Swanwick, “A Changeling Returns” p. 35
“From experience, Tolkien knew that there are only two possible responses to the ending of an age. You can try to hold on, or you can let go. … Tolkien’s vision of the combined horrors of the twentieth century ended with hope and forgiveness. This is a book of sad wisdom.”
This battered well-read edition of The Fellowship of the Ring still stands on my book shelf, amidst it’s younger, better bound, brother editions. While reading essays contained in Meditations on Middle-Earth, it struck me that nearly all of these authors (many of whom I’ve read and enjoyed their own authorial subcreations), enjoyed a similar life-altering reading experience at about the same point in time as myself.
To confirm my theory (and increasingly dim memory of my life four decades ago), I pulled this paperback off the shelf and became immediately distracted by the notes written to me by my friends on the backside of the covers. No one signed their epigraphs, but I can still decipher the handwriting and put faces to scrawlings. But back to my original quest: The actual publication date of this mass market paperback (also confirmed here at GoodReads): 1976
If I acquired this edition that year, and read it then (which I have no doubt I did), I would have been either 11 or 12 years old (depending on the time of year; my birthday occurs in early October). If I received this edition (and their companions) in the following year (1977) the oldest I would have been reading it would have been 13. But I remember reading Lord Foul’s Bane in paperback (published mid-1978) after reading Tolkien’s masterpiece, so I’m reasonably confident I was either twelve or thirteen when I first visited Middle-Earth. Continue reading “Four Decades of Fellowship”
For the past eighteen months, the Void that is my job, sucked all my spare time and forced me to back-burner several personal projects, including a deep dive into all things Tolkien. Back in May of 2017, I had just discovered the local chapter of the Tolkien Society, the Smial of the Withywindle. Oddly, they were finishing up their group read of Dune by Herbert, which I had also recently re-read via an excellent audiobook edition. Over that summer, we read The Tolkien Reader and Tree and Leaf. I threw in Humphrey’s J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography for good measure. I kept up with our other group readings, but the work project increasingly encroached on my reading time. I also didn’t let my employment interfere with our inaugural MiddleMoot on October 6, 2018.
Within a week, I will have reached the final milestone of my epic project and can return to a somewhat slower pace at work. And not a moment too soon, since the Tolkien Society of Kansas City is also doing a ‘deep dive’ into The Lord of the Rings by reading, concurrently, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the Shadow. For the first month (November), our plan is to read the first four chapters of each book and discuss it at our next meeting on November 30th. Continue reading “Returning to Tolkien Depths”
I knew going into Friday I would have a very long day ahead of me. I had errands I needed to run first thing in the morning, so I planned to be late to work. I stayed up past my usual bedtime, keeping my husband company. We watched the inaugural episode of the new Amazon series “The Tick”, which is a remake of the two other Tick series from the 90s and 00s. We also watched the latest episode of “Salvation,” which is shaping up nicely. Not enough science, but plenty of political and personal interactions to keep the layman interested.
I forgot to turn off my alarm but didn’t mind getting up at my normal time of half past five. I did a few minutes of exercise on our elliptical and ran myself through the shower. I avoided logging in to work so I wouldn’t distract myself from the errands I needed to complete. In honor of Monday’s total solar eclipse, I wore my commemorative T-shirt produced by the Astronomical Society of Kansas City. I made sure to grab my ASKC name badge and place it in my car as I would need it for the final event on my Friday schedule.
At half past seven, I left and headed north, with a quick side trip through the car wash, which was surprisingly unbusy so early in the morning. I continued north through Lansing and most of Leavenworth until I reached the old county courthouse. I parked in the Justice Center’s parking lot and serendipitously ran into one of my book club friends on her way to work.
I walked the block back to the old courthouse and grabbed number 45 from the dispenser with about ten minutes wait time before the Treasurer’s office opened. I decided to pay the taxes and fees for my newest vehicle the old-fashioned way – in person and with a handwritten check. The number displayed as being served was 41 so I knew I wouldn’t have long to wait. I made myself comfortable on the old pew-like wooden bench and continued listening to the Dreamsnake audiobook I’d recently checked out via Hoopla.