The New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane, my favorite working movie reviewer, discusses The Hobbit:
… The story has the simplicity of folklore, but the straightness of the narrative keeps arriving at moral crossroads. Thus, when Gandalf the wizard (Ian McKellen) turns up at the house of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the hobbit in question, and returns the next day with thirteen dwarves, who invite Bilbo to come and steal gold—or, as they believe, reclaim it—from a dragon far, far away, and to receive a share of the plunder, our hero is faced with an elemental choice: stay or go? Rest in the consolatory rhythms of hearth and home, marked out by meals and seasons, or break the pattern and take the unknowable risk?…
But there was more to the novel than that—something that squirmed in the murk of its motivations. In “The Lord of the Rings,” the errand of Frodo, though epic in execution, was plain enough: to destroy what would, in the wrong hands, cause irreversible harm. It was like stopping the Nazis from building an atomic bomb. But what the dwarves want, in the pages of “The Hobbit,” is gold, and their lust for it corrodes the quest and tarnishes its valor. That is what lusts do. Tolkien, a devout Catholic, who deplored the vanishing of the Latin Mass, believed in the existence of evil and in the struggle to be delivered from its claws. It is there in every shimmering scale of Smaug, the dragon; deprived by a mouse-quiet Bilbo of a single precious cup, he falls, Tolkien writes, into “the sort of rage that is only seen when rich folk that have more than they can enjoy suddenly lose something that they have long had but never used or wanted.” Ouch. The dwarves, in their small way, are no less possessed, and the joke is that a hobbit, who wishes nobody ill, should help to lead them into temptation. So many twists of the spirit, in such little space. In my old paperback, Tolkien gets the whole thing done in two hundred and eighty pages, nineteen chapters in all. And how far has Jackson travelled, after almost three hours of cinema? The end of Chapter 6. The corrosion has yet to bite…
Because its subscribers are the sort who care about such arguments, New Yorker book reviewer Jon Michaud also has a brief piece explaining why The Hobbit is a better book than Lord of the Rings. I don’t agree with all his bullet points, but even Tolkien’s fans must admit that the man was a better writer under deadline, and with an editor.
Shit like this makes me glad I still haven’t seen the movies and still want to read the books.
Ohlemacher of the AP has been up to his old tricks, uncritically repeating utter rubbish about a tiny tax increase on very high incomes cutting JOBS! You know I can’t let this slide.
Seriously – people banking 7 figures in a small town in Ohio crying poormouth? As if.
Vermont is ranked number one for the fourth year in a row! No thanks to me, I will admit. No points for correctly guessing where all the unhealthy states are.
Just Some Fuckhead
Wait, it’s not all the same book?
War on Xmas escalates with mass shooting at shopping mall.
If the shoppers had only been armed, then they could have took down the assailant.
J. Michael Neal
So I’m at Don Pablos, as I am every Tuesday for all you can eat tacos (been here since 11:30 this morning) and writing. I’m drinking my iced tea when I realize that the only difference between tea and tequila is “quil” AND that those are the first four letters of “liquor.”
So, of course, I ordered the El Tesoro añejo.
Then shouldn’t that also be true of Mr. Peter Turn-it-into-a-trilogy Jackson?
but even Tolkien’s fans must admit that the man was a better writer under deadline, and with an editor.
Tolkien had no editor for LOTR? That’s another data point for my hypothesis that the more famous a fantasy writer gets, the more they need a strong editor.
New video game trailer:
@PeakVT: The second book of the trilogy is so boring.
As a fan of The Hobbit and LOTR, I think of them like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
The former is a children’s story that can be enjoyed by adults. The latter is an adult story with protagonists generally regarded as the stuff of children.
@PeakVT: He did have an editor for LotR. It was the stuff after that, never really finished and kind-of sort-of bundled into The Silmarillion, that cried out for editing. His son did a lot of that post-mortem, but then unfortunately decided to publish every last cocktail napkin and envelope back that the old man ever scribbled on.
I, for one, applaud my home state of WV for dropping from 43rd to 47th in the current rankings.
I mean, who needs their health? Plus, I don’t live there anymore.
@PeakVT: I’m pretty sure he did have an editor. That’s why LOTR is three books and not a single, Randian doorstopper.
IMO, The Hobbit’s a better book because it doesn’t read like the Bible. It just moves better. Tolkein was an excellent world-builder though, so I can overlook his shortcomings.
I couldn’t read either of the books. I got bored too soon.
This mall shooting is so disturbing. One person is dead.
Others are wounded. People just shopping and this evil one with a gun shoots at them.
@Citizen_X: In Jackson’s defense, I just read today that the studio actually ordered the third movie (only two were planned originally) after seeing the rushes from the first. Granted, I’m sure what they were actually seeing were visions of $$$ swimming in their heads.
Off topic, but after seeing the teaser trailer, and now a full trailer for Man of Steel, I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to see movie in my entire life.
I don’t think one can take much from the fact that Tolkien regretted the passing of the Latin Mass. So did I, not really for religious reasons but, rather, because the language was so beautiful. Tolkien was first and last a man who was fascinated by language.
@khead: I had a wellness exam today. I swim nearly a mile a day, don’t eat meat, drink or smoke. I’m 5’11 (I shrunk and inch) and I’m overweight one the mi! Wtf-k?
But whatever we do, we shouldn’t have any sort of national conversation about the accessibility of firearms.
It’s not like the Second Amendment talks about a well-regulated militia or anything.
@J. Michael Neal:
What took you so long?
For a different sort of “Preciousss”
Just don’t move to WV or you will fuck up the curve.
Now on Twitter, BBC says at least three dead and the gunman is dead.
Of course we can’t talk about what is so wrong with this country that shooters are killing innocent people. The Republicans have framed that debate as some sort of right.
It has nothing to do with 2nd Amendment. That’s for defense, not crazies and enraged people to go out with guns.
You can conceal carry in Illinois Appeals court decided. I don’t know the details on that.
@khead: Spent some wild times in Wheeling!
J. Michael Neal
@khead: I’m slow.
pseudonymous in nc
It’s a better book, and it’s a nicely self-contained story, which is why I’m wary of Jackson spreading it out and hooking it into LOTR like butter on too much bread, to misquote Bilbo. (Yes, we don’t know why Gandalf buggers off halfway through, but I’m fine with that.)
He had a good editor at Unwin, but he also had a war to deal with.
(My Anglo-Saxon tutor was taught by Tolkien, and said that he was incredibly dull.)
Jackson did a decent job with the LOTR movies but a horrendous job with King Kong. I’m cautiously optimistic about The Hobbit.
Just made the mistake of switching over to Fox News. From the brief time there it appeared that they were pimping a Breitbart.com video pushing the idea that Michigan protesters are violent thugs.
RossinDetroit, Rational Subjectivist
I’m having sushi and Sapporo in Sanford, NC and really have no idea where I am. Garmin got me here somehow. Two rental cars, two hotels and 4 plane flights in 36 hours.
@schrodinger’s cat: True, but the Two Towers was the best of the films. Go figure.
Pffft. That’s PA. Or OH even.
Come down here.
Cole would think my hometown is the moon.
@RossinDetroit, Rational Subjectivist:
When do you go home?
You must be good at the job. You’re being sent all over.
My son lives in Portland, I of course had to call and check that he is okay, but I only got his voicemail. He’s not one to go to a mall, but at this season I don’t know. I hope he calls soon, before I whip myself into a frenzy of worry and fret. He will no doubt make fun of me, and I really really really look forward to that.
@RossinDetroit, Rational Subjectivist: between Raleigh and Fayettnam!
@J. Michael Neal:
Heh. I meant if I were you the tequila woulda been flowing long before then.
Of course, I’m also a drunk, so we may not be on the same schedule.
@jwb: I liked the Fellowship of the Ring the best.
ETA: The movie edited out the most boring parts of the second book, however too much time was spent on those talking trees for my liking.
RossinDetroit, Rational Subjectivist
Thanks. I really should look at a map. 5 airports in 2 days.
With luck, home tomorrow unless something else breaks somewhere.
I loved LOTR and I’m REALLY not a fantasy guy. Just great storytelling there. Mixed feelings about Hobbit but I’ll certainly see it.
@khead: one of my best friends lives in Louisa, been there 30 years.
I read the first third of the first Lord of the Rings book before deciding a Hobbit travelogue wasn’t for me. And I finish reading almost everything.
So what I’m saying is Tolkien sucks.
@PeakVT: Tolkien did have an editor for LOTR but from what I’ve heard, the man may as well have not been there because every time he would suggest changes, Tolkein would flip out and physically threaten him. After a while he just stopped.
The Hobbit is not a better book than the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I think that people that say that have a short attention span.
@brantl: Conciseness is a virtue in a writer, you know.
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
Actually, we don’t have to agree to anything. Other than leaving out the sacking of the shire, I thought Jackson did a great job in the first three movies; it still ended as the books do: Emphasizing that Samwise was the real central character of the story.
And considering that people around here can’t agree on music or movies, I don’t see why we have to start now.
I like them about equally, but I’ll give the nod to TLOTR. Tolkien wasn’t on deadline for either one, AFAIK; he wrote them “on spec”. And I don’t think he had an editor for either one, either. He refers in one of his letters to having “cut long and hard” in drafting TLOTR; there was some stuff he wanted to put in, but decided to leave out as not germane to the story. I guess you just have to be interested in everything he’s saying (being interested in plants will help a lot).
BTW, does anyone else think TLOTR really is The Hobbit writ large, not just a sequel? Or is that too obvious already?
@Belafon (formerly anonevent): All these fucking fantasy movies suck.
I read The Hobbit and loved it in 4th grade the first time. It’s rated several rereads since. It’s on my ereader now. I didn’t mind the LOTR Trilogy, but i don’t pick that up for a reread all that much. The storytelling and world building is great, but the density isn’t something i like.
I can’t wait to see the Hobbit movie though. The casting is pretty much spot on. (so speaks the Martin Freeman fangirl)
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
@Narcissus: I read all four books to my kid – I finished the Hobbit just before Fellowship showed in theaters. His scenery descriptions were the parts that were a pain to read out loud. They really tended to be the equivalent of the beget sections of the Bible.
I enjoy the domestic and “human” aspects of LOTR almost as much as all the mythical good n’ evil stuff. Simple descriptions of meals, or forests, or of a home they once knew are some of the best parts of the books.
As previously mentioned, there has been a bad shooting here in Portland (by Portland standards). Another reason Portland is a better place to live than Seattle. In Seattle the shooter would have been all amped up on coffee (just like the drivers) and killed more. Here in Portland the shooter would have stopped and had one beer and not have been able to find more ammo.
RossinDetroit, Rational Subjectivist
Typically weekends because my Sat/Sun hours are really expensive.
I’m a ‘field engineer’ (tech) and my field is North America. I’m a noob but we’re under staffed so I’m being thrown in way over my depth. They say this is good experience. I say ‘please let me get through this’.
@RossinDetroit, Rational Subjectivist: It’s good training for ya cherry boy!
@RossinDetroit, Rational Subjectivist:
You will learn a lot and that will be a real help. I think it’s great. You’re tired also from using your noggin.
I start every new thing with I don’t know.
Michaud refers to the LOTR trilogy as “a book”, why should I believe him about anything else Tolkien-related? Plus there’s this great bit, why he prefers the “lite” version (The Hobbit) –
But I think why I always gravitated more to the trilogy as a kid is bc it has more depth. Haven’t seen any of the movies; I prefer to see the books in my head.
Pffft. That’s not an argument for why The Hobbit is a better book than The Lord of the Rings. That’s a verging-on-twee winking-at-the-audience explanation of why Michaud likes The Hobbit better, which is by no means the same thing.
He’s certainly entitled to his own preferences, but why not admit that he isn’t particularly interested in what LotR is doing — no shame in that, lots of readers aren’t — and be done with it?
I’m drunk at a bar in Midtown Manhattan, questioning what I really want to do with my life.
Mid-late 20s is too early for a midlife crisis right?!
And there’s some asshole creeper next to me hitting on some women. Jesus.
That’s more or less the way Tolkien thought of TLOTR. It isn’t really a trilogy; it’s a single novel that’s divided into three volumes for convenience. It’s fairly common to find it as a single volume edition these days.
Nope. I changed my life in my mid twenties.
I have no regrets.
@PsiFighter37: Wait, we can’t hit on women in bars now?
Good, an open thread where I can whine about having the flu. At least, that’s what I think it is, since I have muscle aches and need to stop and rest when I walk from the living room to the kitchen.
I did get a flu shot this year, but it seems lately that what the flu shot does is shorten the flu rather than prevent it entirely, so I end up having it for 2 days instead of a full week. I swear that the year the new swine flu was big, I had it for 24 hours.
pseudonymous in nc
I have read Clarissa, so I’ll take you on for attention span any day.
The Fellowship of the Ring has Bombadil, which is basically a shoehorned cameo of Tolkien’s green-man stuff, the narrative equivalent of a photobomb. The Two Towers is interminable. (Rohan? Boring. Gondor politics? Boring.)
Spalding Gray once noted that when he had his midlife crisis at fifty, the worst part was realizing that “midlife” was fifteen (or in his case, twenty) years earlier. So you’re early, but not by much.
Wait, an obnoxious guy hitting on a woman in a Manhattan bar? What next?
It was unpublishable in Britain, in 1954, first due to paper shortages and as a single volume as it would have been too expensive, the publisher wouldn’t have been able to cover costs. As it was, they managed to sell out the first run of the first volume and were into the second printing by the time the third volume was coming out.
Back to the Hobbit thread. I hadn’t read either the LotR nor the Hobbit, but on a long trip with a friend through much of Oregon, both were amongst the books I brought to read. After about 100 pages through the LotR I finally made it through it. Then I went to the Hobbit, a much better book, I found. But how Jackson manages to make a movie of such length is beyond me.
The Hobbit is more fun and entertaining.
Lord of the Rings is better writing.
Read the Council of Elrond chapter again. He introduces a bunch of new characters, all at once, all distinct, with their own motivations. Boromir introduces himself with his dream – if I recall, it’s literally the first dialogue he has. Saruman is introduced by Gandalf, in a flashback. None of this seems forced as you read it, none of it seems weird or unlikely.
LOTR is actually 6 parts, bundled into 3 volumes of two major sections each
That’s it exactly. Said it much than I could.
I love both The Hobbit and the trilogy. Every word.
But I hate The Silmarillion. I tend to always feel that way about a book that was unfinished at the author’s death but ends up being finished by someone else, no matter how close the author’s relationship with that someone else is. There are a few exceptions (the Schaaras, for instance). But it mostly doesn’t work well and, in this case, you can see why.
I may find another exception in a new book. William Manchester did not finish his last volume of his epic biography of Winston Churchill, The Last Lion before he died. He worked with some reporter on it right up until he died, but the reporter had to do most of the actual work of putting it all together and filling in the gaps (though Manchester had already finished the research). It is just hitting the market. I am a serious fan of the first two volumes. For me, they set the bar for great biography. I don’t always agree with Manchester’s take on ol’ Winnie, but, my dog, he writes it so beautifully that I can’t help but love the old bulldog as much as Manchester so obviously does, flaws and all. Anyway, I read a review that makes me think I’ll find this last volume, even if only partially in his voice, a satisfactory experience.
@Roger Moore: It’s actually divided into six “books,” each volume containing two “books.”
ETA: also what Regnad Kcin said.
I think Ms. Rand and my character Oscar the Grouch would have a lot to talk about actually. I am laughing out loud at this idea.
Why would I want to talk to him. What has he achieved or trying to achieve.
He has achieved what I think is the ultimate goal of your way of thinking.
Isolation. Contempt for others. A hard heart. Yet even he can muster a bit of empathy every now and then.
I am not isolated. I have no contempt for others. Millions of people read my books and find my thoughts inspirational. I hardly spend my time on the sidelines in a trash can grumping.
Not yet anyway.”
The ARPANET Dialogues
@dr. bloor: well he could go to a couple of places in mid town where the middle aged men would hit on him. That might shake up his life.
maybe it’s jealousy… of the man or women I’ve no idea.
otoh, continuing to hit on you after several increasingly blunt versions of “no”
can be really frustrating, if it continues say after the pulling out of a cell phone and “that’s my SO/Spouse” than it’s way over the line, and may result in shards of bar-glass imbedded in scalp
@geg6: I, on the other hand, love the Silmarillion, though it is most certainly not a book, but really a collection of extended fragments, most of which have been editorially rounded off. On the other hand, this makes them not unlike the Germanic sagas on which the tales were modelled.
Ha, The Two Towers has been my favorite ever since I first read LOTR (before the Hobbit) when I was 12 or so. It’s the volume, in my experience, least afflicted with Tolkien’s Germanic-Romantic-lore love for overwrought landscape descriptions, while simultaneously the one where actions have consequences, beyond “and one day they will write mighty ballads about this”.
Main reason I feel like the Hobbit was better is that the Elves are so much more dangerous in that one. Tolkien based his Elves on the Celtic ‘People of Peace’, because they were so mysterious & romantical, but he never seemed to understand that a race of immortal beings is going to have motivations so alien that dealing with them will always be a risk for the rest of us.
Aragorn marrying Arwen is rooted in the Animal Wife myths that go back to the dawn of stories, but Tolkien tried to re-write the selchie/swan maiden/fox geisha/bears daughter myth so that the human could capture the Outsider permanently, without paying a price. Frodo, that sad trustafarian being lugged back & forth across Middle Earth like an ambulatory Ring jewelbox without ever being able to make a decision, was a much better avatar for what messing with Elves will do to a mortal!
@Downpuppy: As well as being a blog-whore, you’re a really shitty writer.
@Michael G: you can, but the manner it was being done in was appalling. I have the courtesy and manner of a gentlemen.
And I’m engaged.
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
This is an example of why I said there’s nothing we will agree on.
Slow night at the BJ motel.
@arguingwithsignposts: Tunch has eaten them all, I don’t know how Anne Laurie survived.
LOTR was a slog. The hobbit is a joy.
Mike in NC
Would vote for Mitt Romney before I paid good money to see “The Hobbit”, that’s how awful it looks from the ads.
Two Towers is my favorite, too, and for much the same reasons. Return of the King is, with the exception of the climax and ending, the worst, IMHO. But when I say that I’m saying the worst of some of my most favorite writing ever.
And I am, generally, not a fan of fantasy. I really only love two fantasy blockbusters, and that’s Tolkien’s masterpieces (and Jackson’s for that matter) and Star Trek in all it’s many iterations. Except that one with Scot Bakula. That one I could have done without.
Just about all of Tolkien’s stuff was what we now call fan-fiction, bits out of the world-building he did for his own pleasure & that of his fellow select Anglo-Catholic dons. The Hobbit was the chunk he originally pulled out to write in installments for his son, and having a younger and less-overeducated auditor to keep him focused was very, very good for his style. By the time he was persuaded to pull out the chunks that would end up as Lord of the Rings, he had so fallen in love with his own seriousness & invention that no mere hired flunky from some red-brick university was going to be allowed to nitpick with HIS ARTTTTT — which I shorthanded as ‘not having an editor’.
Rush is in. Smiths snubbed again.
Tolkien does come out and say getting mixed-up with Elves isn’t a good idea and, to some degree, shows it using Gimli. He basically falls in love with Galadriel and it destroys his life. Looked at in this way, there are many ironies in the fire when Gimli and Eomer first meet and the latter angers the former by his observation “Few escape her nets, they say.”
I understand that the ‘quarter-life crisis’ — when the young hipster looks back at 20 years of grade-grinding & resume-padding and recognizes nobody else gives a shit — is now quite the fashionable thing.
If your funk feels like a midlife crisis, maybe it’s just that you’re around too many hipsters?
The differences between Men (humans) and Elves is a recurring theme in many of the works of Arda. If you haven’t done so, read Akallabêth (in The Silmarillion) in this light. The Nùmenoreans yearned for life unending, as the Elves had, and thereby lost the extraordinary (though still mortal) lives they had been given.
Was there no price? Did Aragorn feel no guilt for his role in Arwen’s renunciation of corporeal immortality — nor for the consequences that act put upon not just Arwen, but also upon Elrond and others?
Meddling in the affairs of wizards? But seriously, Frodo indeed made decisions, such as when he took on the Quest in the Council, when he left the Fellowship, when he spared Gollum, and when he decided to claim the Ring as his own.
Another “Silmarillion” lover here. I’ve read it many times. It’s not a novel, but rather reads as the bible for some strange, forgotten religion. I love the sweep of the fictional mythology, from the moments of creation, to the Gods fighting, to the arrival of elves and men and dwarves. My favorite bit might be Sauron taking over Numenor and the fall of man’s paradise on Ea.
It’s got tons of epic action too.
The Inklings were much more diverse than you state. Charles Williams was neither a don nor an Anglo-Catholic. Owen Barfield is a category all unto himself. “Warnie” Lewis was a dunce. Walter Hooper was a hanger-on.
& etc. and so forth.
From the review:
Which inevitably reminded me of this bit from Bored of the Rings:
Maybe it’s different now, but as a youngster in the late 60s with riots, war, protests, and assassination hanging thickly in the air, reading the Hobbit and LoTR was to step into and be enveloped by a parallel universe.
Those years had their share of darkness and I found myself directly connected to the universal darkness in the world created by Tolkien. And even though the two stories, on paper, seemed to end well, one sensed that they could not and did not. There was still some final accounting to be done.
No other literary experience in my young life was like that. Previously, stories ended when they ended and ended with all being well. Tolkien’s stuff was not Johnny Tremain.
Of course the Hobbit is a more focused tale. It’s a preamble, in it’s own way a Genesis. I could not imagine digesting LotR back then without the help of the Hobbit.
I always valued LoTR the most, because way before I had ever heard of Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey, I viewed the central push of the story to be about what is the nature of companionship. As a kid growing up a bit isolated on a farm in Ohio, that was compelling stuff indeed.
I hope you have figured out life and are still making fun of the guy next to you.
My wife and I went to sleep hours ago.
Thank you! I’ve been reading the thread wondering if I’m the only person that thinks the Two Towers is the best of the LotR trilogy! I just think it works much better having split up the group into smaller, more manageable chunks where you can really see the characters interacting with each other and their situations. In particular, I think the Rohan and Gondor stuff (i.e., the not-Frodo & Samwise sections) are the best of the whole series.
Never made it past halfway through the first movie of LoTR.
When I was 13, a shrink made me read The Hobbit and discuss how I would have felt had some dwarves shown up and demanded I talk to a firebreathing nitwit. Tolkien bores me silly.
I see Tonal Crow already addresses that Frodo indeed made some of the ultimate decisions in the story. That is not to say he was without the heavy pressure caused by the known and unknown consequences of his decisions.
“I will take the Ring, but I do not know the way”
The ultimate rite of passage
They are damp and hard to light.
Do not throw cigarette butts in the urinal, for they are subtle and quick to anger.
The Republic of Stupidity
i always liked The Hobbit better than TLOTR too…
Didn’t he (Tolkien) write Hobbit AFTER the trilogy, to explain a lot that wasn’t so obvious in the first set of books?
No doubt someone’s already explained this all above…
Christ… how many decades has it been since I bought that paperback book (Hobbit) one summer for 35 cents?
I just got a Double Quarter Pounder with fries. I win. Give me the trophy sk I can win. Hard time.
For now. Fifty year old PsiFighter37 may want to have a word with you.
And I set fireeee to the raiiiiin Adele #epique_win
@PsiFighter37: No, you do not win unless you wash that down with an eggnog shake (or strawberry).
Watch out for orcs!
Speaking of interminable fantasy, did anyone ever read William Hope Hodgson?
@MikeJ: Which raises the burning question of whether cigarette butts are worse raw, or after marinating in stale urine. Having never smoked, I feel unqualified to discuss their relative demerits.
And, though it gets a bit of a short shrift, he uses the ring to tempt every major character he encounters. I think the first time when he offers it to Gandalf it may be a youthful mistake, but as the story progresses it’s clear that he understands that the way people react to the temptation of the ring is a critical way of judging them.
Calling bullshit on fan-fiction writers claiming that famous authors were doing the same thing they do. I’ve seen people claim that Dante is “fan-fiction”.
@The Republic of Stupidity:
No. He wrote The Hobbit first, then fleshed out many of its allusions in LotR, which he completed, er, 20 years or so after The Hobbit was published.
@PsiFighter37: Oh how I wish it was bullshit.
Now you’ve got me reminiscing about living in Manhattan. I cannot imagine having to deal with the 7th floor walkup. I definitely would not have a dog if I still lived there.
How about Terry Brooks? Stephen R. Donaldson?
@The Republic of Stupidity:
No. The Hobbit came first, and its success caused the publisher to ask him to write another story about hobbits that eventually grew into LOTR. He did go back and revise The Hobbit afterward so that some of the story line agreed more closely. Most specifically, IIRC, the first edition has Gollum promise Bilbo the ring as a prize for winning the riddle contest, which didn’t jibe with the way Tolkien wanted him and the ring to behave in LOTR, so that was revised into the current version of the story after LOTR was published.
Oh that New Yorker post was a satisfying read. I re-read LOTR recently and thought, you know, this could have been better in the hands of a writer who didn’t feel so driven by the idea that he was writing Epic Literature.
And boy, Tolkein really threw in a lot of crap that didn’t belong and wrote himself into corners that he had to use The Eagles to get out of. I mean, I love the guy, and I’ve read all his books, even The Silmarillon, more than twice, but I’ve just come to realize he had some obvious flaws I didn’t notice back in my teens.
@MattR: That’s why you have an elevator.
It’s an interesting idea, but I don’t think it quite holds up. As far as I remember, Frodo offered the Ring only to Gandalf (in a fit of terrified confusion) and to Galadriel (reason unclear, but perhaps wishing just to be rid of the burden). It came up purely accidentally in his encounter with Faramir, during which he was doing his best to avoid the topic. But Frodo didn’t offer it to Aragorn, nor to Glorfindel, Elrond, Cirdan, et al.
That said, Frodo did judge people, in part, upon how they handled the temptation of the Ring, whether offered or hidden.
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are a good read, but I find them kind of depressing. Can’t he have at least one good guy who’s not morally compromised, and at least one major character who’s actually likeable? Reading about a despicable protagonist gets damn depressing after a couple of books.
Slight nitpick, but their were no right hands for the ring. It was the ultimate corruptive influence.
The trophy is reserved for the folks that hit Taco Bell for a 10-12 pack of soft tacos. Sorry.
@PsiFighter37: If I could’ve afforded a building with an elevator … The illegal immigrant delivery folks handled it better than our friends (though it also helped that we tipped well in recognition of the effort). The pot delivery folks, not so much.
@Roger Moore: My hatred of fantasy doesn’t come from having not done my time in the salt mines. I was a teenaged nerd too, but I got a lot more out of Kerouac before I moved on to Pynchon than I ever did from anything with an elf in it. Just a different form of escapism I suppose. Neither morally superior.
Jack in the Box.
Heh. I upped it after remembering my many trips through the late night drive thru back in the early/mid 90’s.
@RossinDetroit, Rational Subjectivist:
Neil young made an album about Sanford, NC a long time ago.
@khead: Taco bell is not close enough to where I live. Why you being a jerk
@MattR: Okay whatevs. No offense but I skupped your comment
Yankees signed noted asshole and lifelong Chowdershit Kevin Youkilface. I don’t think I can bring myself to root for that turdblossom.
@khead: We hit a taco bell at 1 am and ordered 60 soft tacos to bring back to a party. Took a couple reptitions to convince them we meant sixty and not sixteen.
EDIT: Not sure if I should be impressed or disturbed when I think back about how quickly they got them made.
@arguingwithsignposts: Sorry. I’m baking cookies and doing housework. I feel like I should be wearing pearls and high heels for this…
O/T but RIP Ravi Shankar. Age 92, pretty much the same age as Brubeck. Two powerfully important musicians within days of each other.
A younger generation will know him only, or primarily, as Norah Jones’ father.
@MattR: I WANT SIX THOUSAND CHICKEN VAGITAS! /FAMILY_GUY
Can I get special dispensation for eating two large pizzas by myself one football weekend a few years ago?
OT everytime I see Dickhead Cheney on the teevee I want to reach through the screen with a fat rolled up newspaper and whack him real hard on the bald head and then again on either side of his head. I cannot believe some transplant surgeon thought this evil fvckhead was worth a transplant.
@Lyrebird: Anyone who finds Eowyn’s love for Aragorn “unconvincing” has never wanted anyone they could not have, never loved someone better than them, would not know the good and noble if it came up and bought them a drink after rescuing their people, father and crown from a horde of orcs. Is, in other words, a shallow, self-regarding, women-hating, narcissisme asshole who clearly never read the fracking books.
@khead: I do not go to Taco Hell. We got real greasy Mexican here. That being said, I rarely try for any trophy of that type.
The Song of Fire and Ice books (Game of Thrones) are really good. The crazed fan angle with how slow he has taken between books is pretty funny. The New Yorker chronicled the fan obsession last year.
I’d be impressed. :) That’s pretty awesome.
I used to hit Taco Bell after the 4-12 shift many moons ago.
Taco Bell + Sportscenter = bedtime. Back then anyway…
Nowadays the heartburn might just kill me before I wake up.
This thread is making me hungry.
@khead: These pretzels are making me thirsty.
@dr. bloor: I’m having mine at 54. May as well eat my gun, apparently,…except we don’t have those here. Thing is, I had my first at 29, but the changes I made didn’t work out so good in the end.
@MattR: Don’t prematurely age yourself unnecessarily.
(okay, I admit I watched all Seinfeld episodes before I graduated HS. Sue my ass).
@khead: In high school. We used to have eating contests at taco bell. One rule: you draw lots and then you take turns ordering and everyone must order and eat what you order. The tactical mind had an advantage…
I’m about to pass out / go to sleep, so let me drop a number on you.
Don’t pass out from lack of bodily fluids.
@Anne Laurie: “I will take the ring, though I do not know the way.”
Have you read this book, at all, Anne, dear?
One wonders if the success of the TV show will put Martin into the same kind of mindset as Thomas Harris, who decided to fuck around with his characters in Hannibal just to see how unfilmably he could write them.
Damn. Y’all are making me feel SOOO much better for that TB jones I used to (and occasionally still) have.
And for all those Seinfeld episodes I watched too.
@PsiFighter37: I like the cut of your jib. When you come to Seattle on vacation, and you will, everyone does eventually, we’re having a real piss up of a meet up.
And the likewise amazing Anoushka Shankar.
Best wishes on your next journey, Ravi.
@pseudonymous in nc: I’ll see your Clarissa and bet you an unabridged Tom Jones (aka The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling).
@Anne Laurie: The Elves of Thranduil, hauling barrels to the River Running, were more dangerous than Glorfindel, fending off The Nine? Then Elrond, herald of Gil-galad, recalling the fall of Sauron at the end the 2nd age? Then Galadriel, daughter and Queen of the golden house of Finarfin? These characters were more powerful and dangerous than anything in Middle Earth except Gandalf and Sauron.
@A moocher: I think she means that they were more dangerous to the main protagonists. In the Hobbit, the elves appear hostile. That has a lot to do with that fact that we are invested in the quest of the dwarves, of which, Bilbo is a part. Dwarves and elves don’t really get along.
In LOTR, the Elves are clearly on “our” side if you get my meaning.
@Roger Moore: That never occurred to me. Thank you for pointing it out. Although, come to think of it, Galadriel called him on it.
@A moocher: Someone just like you, but with unfathomable motivations is much more dangerous than bullshit made up stories. Which is what the rest of the nonsense sounds like compared to the beyond good and evil of the elves. Elfs. Elves. Whatever.
Or then again, you could say that Eowyn is trying (& failing) to work out her Daddy Issues on a guy whose severely disfunctional upbringing has him imprinted on a love-object as inappropriate as a hand-raised parrot’s fixation with his human “love”.
Sorry, JRR, but guys like Aragorn never get happy endings, because whenever their lives start going to smoothly they find or invent some new tragedy fit for a HIgh King.
@Anne Laurie: so you are saying that Aragorn, raised on the even-much-more-improbable story of Beren and Luthien Tinuviel, was Elrond and Arwen’s hand-raised parrot? That is not canonical. He never laid eyes on Arwen until young manhood. He was not a parrot, he was her cousin. And, in the end, he did have a happy ending, except for the part about how he was mortal. So if you are accusing JRRT of writing a fairy tale, well, yeah. If you are critiquing him on grounds of literary consistency, then I think you are wrong, because Eowyn had no “daddy issues” that I can see, except that her father was dead and the King, her uncle, was bewitched. Eowyn facing down the Nazgul and then slaying it is, to me, one of the most moving events in written English: “be you living or dark undead, I will smite you if you touch him”. I hate the producer for fcking with that scene.
I would have agreed with most feminist critics of Tolkien, until about 1985 when I read the story of the queen of Numenor in Unfinished Tales. You probably think I am completely over the top here, but there are some passages in that story that are simply staggering in “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” sense.
At this point, having emptied my bottle of Chartreuse, I will just say that I am not sure if we are discussing the internals of the story or the cruel harsh boring razor-wired flatness of our reality. Because if your critque is that men, women and elves like that do not and cannot exist, well, on the one hand, yeah, but on the other hand, maybe.
Please don’t take these ramblings personally. I am a great admirer of yours, now going all lurky again.
Yet another musical death: Charles Rosen, American classical pianist, cultural historian, and polymath at 85 years. His book, The Classical Style (1972), examining the music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, remains one of the essential (and most accessible) works of Western musicology.
A regular contributor to the New York Review of Books on many subjects, his essay (presumably his last) on the playwright William Congreve just arrived in my mailbox today.
Rosen’s long-time friend and colleague, the composer Elliott Carter, whose challenging music he championed, died only a few weeks ago at the age of 104. I last saw both men in June at a NY Philharmonic concert that presented a world premiere of a Carter piece.
Charles Rosen will be mourned by a mere fraction of those who knew, loved and were inspired by the music of Dave Brubeck and Ravi Shankar. Yet Rosen was a performer, writer and thinker of the highest order, and was a intellectual hero of mine.
I don’t get your point. Happy endings are for stories read to young children. In real life (and in LotR) there are times of joy, times of profound sorrow, and times of nearly everything in between.
This is madness. The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit stand on their own terms. The first is a good epic, and the other is a good children’s book. This is nerd-bait, and I’m not biting.
Holy shit this thread got good in a weird way
@handsmile: Only learned of him from his obituary last night and listening to what youtubes I could find. I’m rather fond of his austere (?) style and am utterly in love with the Siena Pianoforte of all things. Must go run down some of his writings.
I just thought he couldn’t find the right palce for a massage
That’s a new thing. Lemony Snicket got it right – children’s books are about life, about overcoming adversity, about escaping from the witch that would put you in a kettle, about the boy who lived. The endings aren’t happy – they’re simply not-tragic. And let’s face it, a not-tragic ending is about the most any of us can actually hope for.
Happy endings are for stories read by lonely housewives.
yeh, always felt Hobbit was a better read than LOTR series. A good concise story without the cliche trappings of epic world saving questery. just personal taste tho
Speaking of hoping for not-tragic endings – North Korea put a satellite in orbit.
Shit just got real.
@? Martin: Apparently the snow stoppage passed by. Though you have to wonder how many people they could have fed with the cost of that.
James E. Powell
Eowyn facing down the Nazgul and then slaying it is, to me, one of the most moving events in written English:
One of my three or four favorite scenes in the whole story. Too bad in the film we know it’s her before she laughs at him.
James E. Powell
Speaking of hoping for not-tragic endings – North Korea put a satellite in orbit. Shit just got real.
OMG! Will this be next?
Can’t speak for everyone, but when I was a kid, the most popular authors were Roald Dahl, RL Stine, and KA Applegate, and you’d be hard-pressed to find one legitimately happy ending for every 5 sad or at least messed up ones. There’s one Goosebumps book where a boy is slowly turning into a dog, and his parents don’t notice. The twist is that he’d been a dog who was experimentally turned into a human and those drugs are wearing off. Holy shit. That’s like Franz Kafka meets Harlan Ellison.
@Yutsano: Probably not that many, actually. ¼ of their GDP is food, which is pretty shitty for a nation that is perpetually on the edge of starvation. The rocket was a whole lot of free labor and leveraging the work of others.
Though given how catastrophically fucked they are wrt to food, it’s hard to argue in favor of any penny not devoted to tractors and fertilizer. North Koreas GDP is equal to that of McDonalds. It’s hard to envision anything so tragically stupid as NK.
I don’t know what happens from this. We can hardly sanction them more. We can also hardly tolerate a nation that far detached from reality with both nukes and the ability to put one in orbit.
North Koreas GDP is equal to that of McDonalds.
So what you’re saying is, if the new Red Dawn was about fighting off invading McDonalds workers, it would be just as realistic?
@Spaghetti Lee: Pretty much. North Korean soldiers would be slightly better equipped due to the lack of profit taking, so give them a spatula, a grill scraper, a ketchup gun, and toss in a decent knife for good measure.
You think we could take them?
For those who liked TLOTR’s the Unfinished Tales is a great read; many back stories are explained (but some are not finished so were not put in TLOTR.) A few of the stories are complete and explain where Gandalf was during The Hobbit and one even gives details of why and how Bilbo was chosen by Gandalf for the ‘quest’ with the Dwarves. A few of the tales are from the Silmarillian so are a bit confusing relative to TLOTR story but still well framed by Tolkiens son with footnotes and commentary. Really fills in a lot of gaps in TLOTR for those who liked it and want some details/back story … .
@Tonal Crow: Not really – the “Hobbit” was the first complete work he wrote (had a beginning, middle, and end) but he first wrote stories (1917! during WWI)that are now contained in the Silmarillian. Interestingly, the plot line for TLOTR was 100% based on the Hobbit but that required that the central plot line in the Hobbit had to be totally changed (first editions of that book have a VERY different story of how Bilbo got the ring.)
The ending in TLOTR (appendix) is extremely dark, even evil. Much as life always ends in an evil death for almost all of us … maybe a few will get lucky but for most of us, it will be ugly just like in TLOTR and Arwen’s hidious fate and death.
I don’t know why you reckon that Arwen suffered a hideous fate and death. She chose to be mortal, just like her uncle did who became Aragorn’s ancestor. She chose to die soon after Aragorn, who passed away after a happy 120 years together. Her own passing, as described n the appendices, was sad, but there was nothing hideous about it.
@Peter: Not if War and Peace is turned into 5 pages, it isn’t.
I wish there were films of Farmer Giles of Ham and of Mr Bliss. Those were the kinds of stories that make me love Tolkien. They’re at once absurd visions into a world that mocks power and wealth, but they do so with so much love for the world.
The Hobbit is a better story, while the Lord of the Rings fleshed out a world. But it was potsmokers, Led Zeppelin, and Gary Gygax who made it a world we can all dream in. I love all the books, but Tolkien was at his best speaking to children in a playful way. Read the Father Christmas Letters and you’ll see.
@Amir Khalid: Because Arwen died fully healthy, and still ‘young’ and in the ‘prime’ of her life; worse, it took a full year before she accepted her terrible fate and could die. All during that time she realized that she gave up immortality just to be alone and finally die in that place. To add even more pain, she lived in the abandon and now empty land of the high Elf’s (her former people) on the very spot she met the person that would doom her to this death; the whole idea of that much regret filled with past memories of complete bliss (she was many thousands of years old by then) for a full year is horrible – now lost, forsaken and utterly alone. Really a hideous way to punish/end her belief and faith in what she had decided to do.
@Tyro: Yeah, lack of quality may be why I don’t get many hits.
But be fair about the whoring : No ads, no tip jar. I’m putting out strictly for fun.
@MattR: I used to worship at the Church of the Taco Bell. I got my driver’s license the minute I turned 16 and then started going to Mass at a more convenient time (away from my parents) and spent 50 minutes on Sundays at Taco Bell before going to Church and picking up their weekly bulletin.
I read the Hobbit while living as a teenaged Hobbit, room in basement, unfinished walls, dark. Loved it. Have not read anything else of Tolkein’s though looks like I should.
Tolkien was at his best being Edward Lear, but linguistics was his first love. There’s enough of him to make everyone grumpy that he did too much of the stuff we don’t care for.
I do not agree Tolkien was a better writer under a deadline. Having no idea what his working relationship with his publisher was during any of his books I can’t speak for that.
What I can say is that the Lord of the Rings trilogy is a much more elaborate and cross connected set of plots & twists. That Tolkien was able to stitch them together so skillfully is part of what made the books a joy to read. Comparing The Hobbit to the trilogy is like comparing a tree to a forest.
@pseudonymous in nc:
Supposedly, one of Tolkien’s Inklings friends (who, IIRC, all admired him immensely, but could be pretty wise-ass about it) when told, admiringly, that JRRT was the only man alive who could actually speak Anglo-Saxon, snarked that that was all well and good, but that if he was the only one could speak it, who would he have to talk TO?
The comment I’ve seen most frequently about Tolkien as a lecturer wasn’t that he was dull, but that he tended to mumble, not project well and was thus difficult to listen to.
What one of the Unwins (iirc, Rayner, who was as a young boy was the slush-pile reader who OK’d The Hobbit for publication) said about Tolkien and “editing” was that Tolkien had only 2 responses to editorial criticism. One was to ignore it entirely, and the other was to throw away what he already had and start over. So yeah, there wasn’t much editing, except self-editing. The idea that he “threatened” people over being edited is pretty ridiculous if it’s meant to be taken literally.
pseudonymous in nc
Which is why the changed ending for the film version of Roald Dahl’s The Witches is a travesty of the book. Kids are a lot more comfortable with messy and somewhat ambivalent endings than a lot of adults, and definitely a lot of Hollywood executives.