Thursday, January 29, 2004

Elrond has sent the company out from Rivendell, and they have made it to the slopes of Caradhras, only to be defeated and turn back across the land of Hollin, to the doors of Moria. These books are so geographical that I find myself constantly flipping back to the maps in the front...sort of like Joshua and the Chronicles of the Old Testament. Since I now have my Tolkien dictionary, I sometimes flip through and translate names of rivers or lands, or Elvish phrases.

Throughout the books, Tolkien writes of Middle-earth familiarly, as I would write of West Texas - as though it were a land he knew intimately and loved. Peter Beagle, who wrote the Introduction to my edition (the 1978 Ballantine Books printing) of the trilogy, points out that "in the end it is Middle-earth and its dwellers that we love, not Tolkien's considerable gifts in showing it to us. I said once that the world he charts was there long before him, and I still believe it. He is a great enough magician to tap our most common nightmares, daydreams and twilight fancies, but he never invented them either: he found them a place to live." Some fantasy books are written abstractly, distantly, and the reader never forgets that they are reading a story, something that could never really happen. Tolkien's warm treatment of the hills and fields of Middle-earth pull the reader in, making us believe that we could really journey there.


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